Inspiration is from Fr. Didier Boillat, O.P. and Fr. Claver Boundja, O.P.
The jubilee we are talking about has its roots in the Bible. During the Jubilee year, individual life as well as community life is filled with favours from The Lord (Grace). Narrative of the Past with its shortcomings, its elements of disappointment, its struggles and hopes are linked to the present complex narratives in a moment of restful celebration of the life we receive as a gift from God. It is a time given to allow a chance for an authentic renewal full of hope. It is a time to reconnect with the newness of God who never gets old or tired. In the life of individuals and communities the presence of God reassumes everything in Christ. God changes everything and liberates everything. He brings everything in a deep movement of transformation.
It is God who offers Humanity the spirituality of the Jubilee. From the Biblical point of view, we know the Jubilee is related to the experience of Freedom, Abundance and Remission. In Leviticus 25, God appears as the one who rules the earth because he sets freedom for the whole creation. The Jubilee is celebrated after « 7 weeks of years », seven times seven years, meaning 49 years which is a symbol of perfection. The Jubilee start before the 49th year is completed, which is a sign of lack of perfection and continue in the 50th year which is the beginning of a new creation. There is a combination here of tension towards perfection in time which has to start afresh, breaking the limits of time. The jubilee is in connection with the sabbatical year symbolised by the gift of the land (Lv 25).
What is said here was an idealistic vision. We know the Jubilee law was never applied fully. It was a kind of utopia leading to a different reality, inviting to another look of reality in order to break the normal usual rhythm of life. It was a law which aimed at consolidating the present of a busy people, having effects on social life. It was useful in strengthening family and social life. Family links and social ties were reinvigorated by a new look on earthly properties in view of a renewed fraternal and social life. We should not forget that the jubilee law was given during exile. Its intent was also to restore the spiritual renewal and shape a new vision.
The three elements of a Jubilee were the idea of repose and rest reminding the Creation Narrative (Gn1,1-24), the regulation of Freeing of Slaves which is found in the Code of the Covenant (Exodus 21 – 24) as well as in the Deuteronomy Code (Deuteronomy 12 – 26) and the Priestly Code (Lv. 17- 27), and the Remission of Debt, offering a new chance to those who did not show responsibility and stewardship in managing their property and those who were sick (Lv. 25, 23 – 31).
That is why the jubilee year is more than a mere souvenir. The celebration of the Jubilee is crucial in order to prepare for the future. It is rooted in basic needs. It refers to the first paradise. It is a call to peace and harmony, not only with oneself, but also with brothers and sisters as well as with nature. In this context, the jubilee law is to be seen as a kind of contemplation leading to the gift of intelligence and wisdom. The social fabric regains its connection with the religious dimension in which reconciliation with God is achieved and allows fraternal reconciliation amongst ourselves. This work brings about real freedom in as much as people have rediscovered their dependency from God. Our fraternal life is strengthened by the fact that the awareness of being all pilgrims on this earth keeps increasing, knowing that our real citizenship is somewhere else. We can then be open to new possibilities for our social and community structures with a deep sense of forgiveness and reconciliation. This becomes even stronger in the New Testament.
It will be important here to understand the continuity with the Old Testament and the shift from the same Old Testament. Jesus’ public ministry started with these words from Isaiah 61, 1-2: “The Spirit of the Lord has been given to me for he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, bind up hearts that are broken, liberty to captives and to blind new sight, to set downtrodden free, to proclaim the lords year of favour, comfort those who mourn”. Jesus said: “This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen” (Luke 4, 16-22). The jubilee becomes a daily style of life. It is not linked with a given number of years any more. We are not told when this jubilee style of life intervenes. Jesus just says that he realizes in himself Isaiah’s prophecy. Jesus introduces himself as having in him all the characteristics of a jubilee. He announces deliverance to captives, sight to blind people, remission of debt, liberation of prisoners, newness, abundance of life, presence of God in the midst of his people. It becomes then clear that the last judgement be focused on the jubilee year requirements. Have we been able to be present to our brothers and sisters in need? (Mt 25, 41-45; Jm. 2, 15-16). Fleeing in religious exercises and devotions is not enough. The disciple has to lay down his or her life as Jesus did, giving a living witness to Christ through charity (1 Jn. 3, 16). The poor in spirit (Mt 5, 3) will be the one whose detachment sets him or her free. He/she will live in this world which passes away as a citizen of another world governed by a jubilee law (1 Co 7, 31).
Jesus Christ being the foundation of our Jubilee life, the Sequela Christi becomes our vocation. « Sequela Christi » is a response to Jesus’ call. Jesus did not conceive his mission as a solitary accomplishment. Starting from the communion he enjoyed since eternity with the Father and the Spirit, we see Him choose a group of simple men and ordinary disciples to be with him and share in his missions (Mt 4,19-22; Mk 3,7-19). This Sequela Christi is our permanent challenge through time and in our various locations as we have to stimulate hope, work for freedom and engage ourselves and our society in a transformative endeavour for integral liberation and human development.
The challenge then is there to face: How am I ready to give to myself, to my community and my Order a new chance? Am I ready for new possibilities for myself, for my community and my Order?
While reflecting on these issues, Fr. Didier Boillat from Switzerland came back to a thought from Saint Augustine linking our life experience with its wounds to our present commitment in building the future: « There are three times: The present of the past, the present of the present and the present of the future. Those three types of times do exist just in our mind. The present of the past is memory, the present of the present is direct intuition, and the present of the future is the expectation » (Saint Augustin).
According to Fr. Didier, this leads us to develop three virtues:
- Patience: Jesus told his disciples that they should allow time to help discern between wheat and darnel. This patience from God is a mark of the jubilee year.
- Courage: One cannot enter the jubilee year if one is afraid of newness.
- Prudence: Here we are implying the capacity to read the signs of time in order to respond adequately to challenges with a renewed vision.
In our “Sequela Christi” we should not forget our own wounds, the wounds of our brothers and sisters as well as the wounds in our society remembering that the wounds of the risen Lord have been a hermeneutical lieu of reconnecting with the historical Jesus (John 20,19) showing the extent to which the love of God can be offered.
Fr. Emmanuel Ntakatarutiman, OP