Giving to the poor is part of jubilee year, pope says

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — A jubilee year that does not open
people’s wallets to share what they have with others is not a true jubilee,
Pope Francis said.

“This pope isn’t inventing that,” he insisted.
“It’s in the Bible.”

At his weekly general audience Feb. 10 in St. Peter’s
Square, Pope Francis spoke about the description of a jubilee year in the
Book of Leviticus. The religious feast also had serious social implications, he
said, because it proclaimed a forgiveness of debts, the freedom of indentured
servants and special generosity toward the poor and the stranger.

“It was a kind of ‘general amnesty,’ which permitted
everyone to return to their original situation with the cancellation of every
debt, the restitution of land and the possibility of enjoying once again the
freedom proper to members of the people of God,” he said.

For God’s chosen people, who are called to holiness, the
pope said, the jubilee prescriptions help “to combat poverty and
inequality, guaranteeing a dignified life for all and a fair distribution of
the land on which to live and draw sustenance.”

During the Catholic Church’s jubilee year, each Christian
should think about what they have, he said, and “if they have too many
things,” they should “give some to someone who has nothing; 10
percent or 50 percent. The Holy Spirit will inspire you.”

Pope Francis told the crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square
that “a jubilee is for conversion so that our hearts become bigger, more
generous, more (like) a child of God, with more love.”

“I’ll tell you something,” he said, “if this
jubilee doesn’t reach our pockets, it’s not a real jubilee. Do you understand? This
is in the Bible, eh, this pope isn’t inventing that. It’s in the Bible.”

“The biblical message is very clear: courageously open
yourselves to sharing; this is mercy,” the pope said. “If we want
mercy from God, let us begin by being merciful ourselves.”

A biblical jubilee is about sharing and solidarity, Pope
Francis said. “The biblical jubilee was a ‘jubilee of mercy’ because it
was lived with a sincere search of the good of one’s needy brothers and

The laws governing God’s people in the Bible, he said, also
had other means for encouraging people to help others experience God’s mercy.
One of those things was the command to tithe a tenth of one’s earnings to the
temple and to widows and orphans or to give a portion of the first fruits of
one’s harvest.

In addition, he said, the Bible had harsh words for those
who charged high interest rates when loaning to the poor. In many countries, he
added, usury is still a huge problem and families lose everything and end up on
the streets.

“Please, let us pray that in this jubilee the Lord
would remove from all our hearts this desire to have more,” he said.

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