CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY IN ACTION

Celebrate Jubilee:
The Jubilee as Restoration

Mary Healy
ICCRS NEWSLETTER, MARCH - APRIL 2017

A jubilee is a time of joy, grace, and celebration. As St John Paul II wrote of the Great Jubilee of the year 2000: “The term jubilee speaks of joy; not just an inner joy but a jubilation which is manifested outwardly.”
The origins of the jubilee are in the book of Leviticus, where God teaches his Chosen People how to sanctify time. Through Moses at Mount Sinai, the Lord instructed the Israelites how to order their lives within the rhythm of weeks, months, and years such that they continually renewed their fellowship with Him and with one another. They were to keep holy the seventh day, the Sabbath; to celebrate each new moon; and to observe a liturgical cycle of special feasts and seasons each year.
And beyond the annual calendar, certain years were sacred. The Lord commanded that every seventh year would be a sabbath year (Lv 25:1 - 7). That is, the people had to rest from agricultural work and let the land itself “rest,” or lie fallow - there could be no sowing or reaping. To celebrate the sabbath year was an act of trust in God. It required trust that even without human labor, God would provide enough for the people to eat through what grew of itself or what they had saved from previous years. The sabbath year helped ensure that God’s people would not be slaves to work, that they would not close themselves off in a utilitarian or consumerist vision of reality.
Even greater than the sabbath year was the jubilee year (Lv 25:8-55). The jubilee was a kind of super-Sabbath, to be held after every seven times seven years - that is, the fiftieth year. The Israelites called it a “jubilee” (Hebrew yobel) because they announced it at the end of the forty-ninth year by blowing a ram’s horn (yobel). Leviticus goes on to explain that the jubilee is to be a year of rest, release, and return.
It is a year of rest because, just as in the Sabbath year, the people are to take a year off from their farm labor and let the land lie fallow. Long before modern ideas of crop rotation, the Lord taught Israel how to let the land rest and recoup its nutrients!
It is a year of release because the slave-owners of all Israelites who had sold themselves into slavery to pay a debt (a common practice in the ancient world) would free them. This means that no Israelite could be a true slave. He was only an indentured servant, who would eventually be free. Thus, God reminded the Israelites that they were servants of Him alone, who freed them from slavery in Egypt. The book of Deuteronomy later added another form of release: during the jubilee: all debts are to be forgiven (Dt 15:1). The weight of a debt could not permanently oppress God’s people.
And it is a year of return because all land that had been sold off (another common way of repaying a debt) had to be returned to its original owner, and the owner could return to his land. The jubilee ensured that selling property was only a long-term lease. This was essential because an Israelite family’s portion in the holy land was not real estate that they could trade like a commodity, but a sacred inheritance from the Lord. No member of God’s people could be permanently alienated from his land.
The jubilee would thus enable all God’s people to remain in the freedom and fullness of life that he desired for them. No Israelite could be permanently impoverished, and no small group of people could accumulate most of the wealth. But sadly, it is doubtful whether the jubilee was ever actually carried out as the Lord instructed
The Israelites experienced the bitter fruit of ignoring God’s commands, culminating with their exile and captivity in Babylon - the opposite of rest, release and return. But through the prophet Isaiah, God announced a restoration to come:
The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me;
He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners,

To announce a year of favor from the LORD
and a day of vindication by our God, to comfort all who mourn;
To place on those who mourn in Zion a diadem instead of ashes,
To give them oil of gladness in place of mourning,
a glorious mantle instead of a listless spirit (Isa 61:1 - 3).
The “year of favor from the Lord” refers to the jubilee. God promises that the coming of the Messiah will be a new and greater jubilee, a time of freedom and healing, consolation and joy.
And what happened when Jesus came? At the beginning of his public ministry, he went into the synagogue at Nazareth, read this passage from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, and then announced to his stunned audience, “This text is being fulfilled today even while you are listening” (Lk
4:21). Jesus was proclaiming that his whole mission is to inaugurate the new and everlasting jubilee - the true rest, release, and return of which the ancient jubilee was only a foreshadowing. He gives us the true rest of communion with God, the true release from captivity to sin, and the true return to the promised land God always intended for us, heaven.
The Church had long forgotten the idea of a jubilee in Her history until Pope Boniface VIII announced a jubilee year in 1300. He called Christians to celebrate it with almsgiving, works of mercy, and pilgrimages. Since then, the Church has celebrated jubilees on and off, and sometimes has marked an “extraordinary ” jubilee (one not at a fifty-year interval), like the Year of Mercy called by Pope Francis.
So what does all this have to do with the Jubilee of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal? It is interesting to note that Israel’s jubilee had a special connection with Pentecost because just as Pentecost was always celebrated on the fiftieth day after Passover (7x7+1), the jubilee is celebrated every fiftieth year (7x7+1).

The beginning of the Renewal fifty years ago was a kind of new Pentecost that spread like holy fire throughout the Church. It brought countless people to experience the love of God and the glorious majesty of Jesus. It is fitting to celebrate the jubilee of this great work of God by asking Him to renew in us the wonderful things He did through Baptism in the Holy Spirit. Specifically, this year we might:
Celebrate the Jubilee as rest by taking extra time off from our labors, even ministry labors, and simply enjoying the fruit that God has made to grow through the Charismatic Renewal. Take extra time to visit people, renew old friendships, make a pilgrimage, and enjoy the Lord’s presence in worship.
Celebrate the Jubilee as release by forgiving any outstanding debts - debts of offences committed against us, and perhaps even monetary debts. Let us do all that is in our power in this Jubilee year to heal broken relationships.
Celebrate the Jubilee as return by returning to our first love, the passion for Jesus that the Holy Spirit kindled in us, and by returning to the childlike trust in God and abundant exercise of spiritual gifts that we may have known in the past.
Finally, it is curious that the Latin word for jubilee, jobeleus, sounds a lot like another Latin word, jubilus. For the Fathers of the Church, jubilus or jubilation meant sounds made by the tongue that express overflowing joy but without words - that is, nothing other than the gift of tongues! To sing in tongues is a wonderful way to praise and thank God in the Spirit for the gift of his Son Jesus, who is the fulfillment of the jubilee.
Dr. Mary Healy is a professor of Scripture at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit and the chair of the Doctrinal Commission of International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services. She is the author of Healing: Bringing the Gift of God’s Mercy to the World.
The beginning of the Renewal fifty years ago was a kind of new Pentecost that spread like holy fire throughout the Church. It brought countless people to experience the love of God and the glorious majesty of Jesus. It is fitting to celebrate the jubilee of this great work of God by asking Him to renew in us the wonderful things He did through Baptism in the Holy Spirit. Specifically, this year we might:
Celebrate the Jubilee as rest by taking extra time off from our labors, even ministry labors, and simply enjoying the fruit that God has made to grow through the Charismatic Renewal. Take extra time to visit people, renew old friendships, make a pilgrimage, and enjoy the Lord’s presence in worship.
Celebrate the Jubilee as release by forgiving any outstanding debts - debts of offences committed against us, and perhaps even monetary debts. Let us do all that is in our power in this Jubilee year to heal broken relationships.
Celebrate the Jubilee as return by returning to our first love, the passion for Jesus that the Holy Spirit kindled in us, and by returning to the childlike trust in God and abundant exercise of spiritual gifts that we may have known in the past.
Finally, it is curious that the Latin word for jubilee, jobeleus, sounds a lot like another Latin word, jubilus. For the Fathers of the Church, jubilus or jubilation meant sounds made by the tongue that express overflowing joy but without words - that is, nothing other than the gift of tongues! To sing in tongues is a wonderful way to praise and thank God in the Spirit for the gift of his Son Jesus, who is the fulfillment of the jubilee.
Dr. Mary Healy is a professor of Scripture at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit and the chair of the Doctrinal Commission of International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services. She is the author of Healing: Bringing the Gift of God’s Mercy to the World.