November 7th, we celebrate the feast of all Dominican Saints. This year, it also marks the beginning of the Jubilee of the Order of Preachers, commemorating the 800th anniversary of the official approbation of the Order in 1216.
A jubilee is a time of celebration. In ancient Israel, according to Leviticus 25, every fiftieth year was to be a Jubilee, a holy year, a year of freedom, a year of grace, a year of blessing, when everyone was to return to their home; they were to be just in their dealings and slaves were to be given freedom. It is a year of favour, as the anointed of the Lord, God's Messiah is to proclaim, as described in Isaiah 61. In these texts we see that the biblical idea of a jubilee is linked both to the proclamation of the Gospel - the Good News, to returning to one's home, to the practice of justice, to liberation for all oppressed and enslaved, to the gracious favour and blessing of God upon God's people.
Returning to one's home, to one's origins has to do with memory and remembering where we came from. As we celebrate our Jubilee, we remember the origins of our Order and the heritage given to us. This also involves contemplating and rejoicing in the many who have preceeded us as stewards of this heritage - thus the Feast of all OP Saints is a very appropriate starting point for such a celebration. The words "return home" also evoke the parable of the prodigal son (Lk. 1:11 -32), who, having wasted away his heritage, came to his senses, returned to himself, and realised it was time to return home, to his father - where he was welcomed with a celebration. The Jubilee carries in it a call to conversion, it is marked by an element of metanoia.
Remembering the origins of the Order is a way of becoming conscious once again of the charism entrusted to us and the call we have received. This will, if we are truthful, lead to a consciousness also of the fragility of our response and a new awareness of where we have failed and need forgiveness, and of the areas where we have still potential to grow.
Truth - veritas - has always in the Dominican tradition been considered a liberating force. Our meeting with the Truth of God, whose supreme attribute is misericordia - mercy, will, if we respond, generate in us new enthusiasm and energy to live our vocation joyfully. We will be helped to leave behind all unnecessary burdens and enabled to run the course we set out on, our eyes fixed on Christ (Heb. 12:1 - 2), travelling light as itinerant preachers must, carrying only what was entrusted to us: the Gospel of God's merciful love, His gracious plan for the salvation of the world.
For 800 years, Dominican brothers and sisters have put themselves at the service of the Gospel. Contemplating the world around us, we find this mission to be as urgent in 2016 as it was in 1216. Into a world torn apart by conflict and violence, divided in factions of rich and poor, winners and losers; where so many suffer from material or spiritual poverty, lacking life's necessities or even the sense of meaning and purpose; in societies marked by instability, by manipulation and competition for power, by a consumerism which turns everything - including human persons - into objects to be sold, bought, used and wasted... Into this world, God speaks His Word of truth, mercy and compassion, and invites us to receive it and bring it to others, to prepare a way for it into the hearts of men and women, to create spaces where there is abundant room for it to dwell; yes, to
...bring the good news to the afflicted, to soothe the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to captives, release to those in prison, to proclaim a year of favour from the Lord...
(Is. 61:1 - 2)