Incarnationis Mysterium
Mystery of the Incarnation

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This doctrine on indulgences therefore "teaches firstly how sad and bitter it is to have abandoned the Lord God (cf. Jer 2:19). When they gain indulgences, the faithful understand that by their own strength they would not be able to make good the evil which by sinning they have done to themselves and to the entire community, and therefore they are stirred to saving deeds of humility".(18) Furthermore, the truth about the communion of saints which unites believers to Christ and to one another, reveals how much each of us can help others — living or dead — to become ever more intimately united with the Father in heaven.

Drawing on these doctrinal reasons and interpreting the motherly intuition of the Church, I decree that throughout the entire Jubilee all the faithful, properly prepared, be able to make abundant use of the gift of the indulgence, according to the directives which accompany this Bull (cf. attached decree).

11. These signs have long been part of the traditional celebration of Jubilees. Nor will the People of God fail to recognize other possible signs of the mercy of God at work in the Jubilee. In my Apostolic Letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente, I suggested some which may help people to live the exceptional grace of the Jubilee with greater fervour.(19) I recall them briefly here.

First of all, the sign of the purification of memory; this calls everyone to make an act of courage and humility in recognizing the wrongs done by those who have borne or bear the name of Christian.

By its nature, the Holy Year is a time when we are called to conversion. This is the first word of the preaching of Jesus, which significantly enough is linked with readiness to believe: "Repent and believe the Good News" (Mk 1:15). The imperative put by Christ flows from realization of the fact that "the time is fulfilled" (Mk 1:15). The fulfilment of God's time becomes a summons to conversion, which is in the first place an effect of grace. It is the Spirit who impels each of us to "return into ourselves" and to see the need to go back to the Father's house (cf. Lk 15:17-20). Examination of conscience is therefore one of the most decisive moments of life. It places each individual before the truth of his own life. Thus he discovers the distance which separates his deeds from the ideal which he had set himself.

The history of the Church is a history of holiness. The New Testament strongly states this mark of the baptized: they are "saints" to the extent that, being separate from the world insofar as the latter is subject to the Evil One, they consecrate themselves to worshipping the one true God. In fact, this holiness is evident not only in the lives of the many Saints and Beati recognized by the Church, but also in the lives of the immense host of unknown men and women whose number it is impossible to calculate (cf. Rev 7:9). Their lives attest to the truth of the Gospel and offer the world a visible sign that perfection is possible. Yet it must be acknowledged that history also records events which constitute a counter-testimony to Christianity. Because of the bond which unites us to one another in the Mystical Body, all of us, though not personally responsible and without encroaching on the judgement of God who alone knows every heart, bear the burden of the errors and faults of those who have gone before us. Yet we too, sons and daughters of the Church, have sinned and have hindered the Bride of Christ from shining forth in all her beauty. Our sin has impeded the Spirit's working in the hearts of many people. Our meagre faith has meant that many have lapsed into apathy and been driven away from a true encounter with Christ.

As the Successor of Peter, I ask that in this year of mercy the Church, strong in the holiness which she receives from her Lord, should kneel before God and implore forgiveness for the past and present sins of her sons and daughters. All have sinned and none can claim righteousness before God (cf. 1 Kgs 8:46). Let it be said once more without fear: "We have sinned" (Jer 3:25), but let us keep alive the certainty that "where sin increased, grace abounded even more" (Rom 5:20).

The embrace which the Father reserves for repentant sinners who go to him will be our just reward for the humble recognition of our own faults and the faults of others, a recognition based upon awareness of the profound bond which unites all the members of the Mystical Body of Christ. Christians are invited to acknowledge, before God and before those offended by their actions, the faults which they have committed. Let them do so without seeking anything in return, but strengthened only by "the love of God which has been poured into our hearts" (Rom 5:5). At the same time, there will be no lack of fair-minded people able to recognize that past and present history also records incidents of exclusion, injustice and persecution directed against the sons and daughters of the Church.

Let no one in this Jubilee year wish to exclude himself from the Father's embrace. Let no one behave like the elder brother in the Gospel parable who refuses to enter the house to celebrate (cf. Lk 15:25-30). May the joy of forgiveness be stronger and greater than any resentment. Thus the Bride will shine before the eyes of the world with the beauty and holiness which come from the Lord's grace. For two thousand years, the Church has been the cradle in which Mary places Jesus and entrusts him to the adoration and contemplation of all peoples. May the humility of the Bride cause to shine forth still more brightly the glory and power of the Eucharist, which she celebrates and treasures in her heart. In the sign of the consecrated Bread and Wine, Christ Jesus risen and glorified, the light of the nations (cf. Lk 2:32), reveals the enduring reality of his Incarnation. He remains living and real in our midst in order to nourish the faithful with his Body and Blood.

Let us therefore look to the future. The merciful Father takes no account of the sins for which we are truly sorry (cf. Is 38:17). He is now doing something new, and in the love which forgives he anticipates the new heavens and the new earth. Therefore, so that there may be a renewed commitment to Christian witness in the world of the next millennium, let faith be refreshed, let hope increase and let charity exert itself still more.

12. One sign of the mercy of God which is especially necessary today is the sign of charity, which opens our eyes to the needs of those who are poor and excluded. Such is the situation affecting vast sectors of society and casting its shadow of death upon whole peoples. The human race is facing forms of slavery which are new and more subtle than those of the past; and for too many people freedom remains a word without meaning. Some nations, especially the poorer ones, are oppressed by a debt so huge that repayment is practically impossible. It is clear, therefore, that there can be no real progress without effective cooperation between the peoples of every language, race, nationality and religion. The abuses of power which result in some dominating others must stop: such abuses are sinful and unjust. Whoever is concerned to accumulate treasure only on earth (cf. Mt 6:19) "is not rich in the sight of God" (Lk 12:21).

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