RNS correspondent Fredrick Nzwili of Nairobi reported Monday (12/21) that the Jubilee Year of Mercy is inspiring interfaith understanding from local bishops and priests. Pope St. Francis officially signified the jubilee year by recently opening the Holy Door at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. According to Catholic tradition, the jubilee year is a time for the faithful to reflect on themes of mercy, forgiveness, and outreach to the unchurched and those in need. Africa is home to some 200 million Catholics. Pope St. Francis recently visited the Saint Sauveur refugee camp in Bangui, Central African republic. He stated in his official address, “Together, we must say no to hatred, to revenge and to violence, particularly that violence which is perpetrated in the name of a religion or of God himself. God is peace, salaam.” Catholic converts’ numbers are growing fastest in Africa despite terrorism from Muslim extremists.
The Jubilee Year corresponds to the African Year of Reconciliation. Believers stress reconciliation with God and amongst different ethnicities. Abortion is a recurring topic this year. “The Rev. Don Bosco Ochieng Onyalla, a priest of South Sudan and a lecturer at Tangaza University College in Nairobi, speaks of the move by the Pope to allow priests to forgive the sin of abortion.” This trend is founded on the belief that God is willing and read y to forgive all who ask forgiveness, and that He does not classify sin as people tend to do – saying this or that sin is worse or more egregious than another, but to offend in one is to offend in all.
The Biblical Year of Jubliee was to be a land-Sabbath, where everyone and everything was to rest and be restored from the previous six years of labor. Just as man was commanded to take a day of rest from a full week – a Sabbath day, the land was to have a Sabbath year. There was to be no work on the Sabbath day, and no plowing and sowing of land in the Sabbath year. Scientifically, land that has not been “rested” every seventh year, but has been worked constantly without ceasing, has been depleted or is being depleted of minerals; the quality of the soil has decreased and is decreasing. In some places, nothing yet will grow after 400 years of skipping the Jubilee rest (*that is almost 58 Sabbath years ignored).
The Sabbatical (Sabbath) Year (Shĕmittah (to release) in Hebrew) and Year of Jubilee are expounded in Leviticus 25 along with other provisions specific to the Jubilee year. The Lord spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai concerning this command. Moses was to tell all of the Israelites that God expected a Sabbath to be kept in the new land that He would show them and bring them into. The Sabbath year was to be the seventh year. For six years then, the people would be allowed to work the land and gather its fruits. However, they were to declare the seventh year a solemn rest, during which they would not reap any harvest or anything that grew cultivated in the land. Debts remaining payable unto the Sabbath year would be cancelled, giving economic rest to the financially burdened.
God promised that if the Sabbath year was honored as He commanded on every seventh year, there would be no poor among them. With the extent of poverty in the world today, it is a point of conjecture as to whether this is an effect of the dismissed Sabbath year. The land is overworked, under nourished, and failing in many parts of the world, to grow anything at all.
The Shĕmittah is most likely based on the Hebrew year, not the Western calendar year; as such, the Shĕmittah would end on the 29th day of Elul of the Hebrew calendar – regardless of the Western calendar date. Shĕmittah was given as a holy ordinance for all earthly time. However, the missed observance of this rest seems to bring judgment on the land. The most recent Shĕmittah, or Sabbath year was 2008 – America experienced a stock market crash on September 29th – the 29th day of Elul, preceding the 7th month (Tishri) on the Hebrew calendar, in the 7th year of the Jewish Shĕmittah, and the stock market fell on that day, exactly 777 points. Previously (seven years earlier), the Shĕmittah had been in 2001, when America went through the horrifying reality of 9/11.
The Year of Jubilee was to be counted as the seventh multiple of seven Sabbath years, or (7 x7 =) the 49th year, plus one day = 50th. The tenth day of the 49th year in the seventh month was to be the Day of Atonement. The fiftieth year (Pentecost), was to be the year of Jubilee. Pentecost is celebrated every year, fifty days after Easter. Pentecost 2016 is Sunday, May 15th. Despite the annual celebration, most people only witness an actual day of Pentecost according to the Hebrew calendar of 7 Sabbath years plus 1 day, just once in their lifetime as it occurs only once in every full cycle of 50 years.“ Year of Jubilee also brought freedom for slaves who had had sold themselves to pay off debts.
Pastor Robert Morris stated that he heard from God, if he did not take a day of rest (as he was constantly working to minister to others), it would be his demise. He also explained the “Sabbath” as a matter of principle. It did not have to be on a Sunday (or a Saturday). It has to be a day in which you put aside those things that you call “work” and cease from those labors. His “Sabbath” is Monday – when his calendar is “completely booked” because he is scheduled to do nothing (as his friend explained).