As Father Gene’s Help Center celebrates its 50th Jubilee Year, I am reminded of the words by Jesus Christ in the synagogue in His hometown of Nazareth: “He has sent me […] to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord” (Luke 4:19, NABRE). Since its beginning, the Help Center has participated in the saving redemption of Jesus Christ who came to “bring glad tidings to the poor” and “proclaim liberty to captives”. It is a little “slice” of the Kingdom of Heaven, by its work in providing dignity through clothing to people in need in the Milwaukee area.
The “year acceptable to the Lord” that Jesus spoke about that day in Nazareth was a reference to a Jubilee Year in the Hebrew tradition. The Book of Leviticus prescribes a special year, a Jubilee Year, in which debts would be remitted, lands restored to their original owners, and the liberation of slaves. The fiftieth year, the jubilee year, was to be treated “as sacred” (Lev 25:10). Its beginning was announced by the blowing of a ram’s horn, a yobhel in Hebrew, where the word “jubilee” comes from. A jubilee year was a year in which the people were invited to see the world, not through our eyes, but rather to see the world as God would see it.
How might we celebrate this 50th Jubilee Year of the Father Gene’s Help Center? It will be a year very acceptable to the Lord if we enter more deeply into seeing the world, not through our eyes, but rather as God would see it. Not an easy task, but God just asks for our permission, a small window of openness, and He always multiplies it a hundred-fold. May God who has begun this good work continue to bring it to fulfillment, especially as we celebrate 50 years at Fr Gene’s.
Fr. John Baumgardner, Archdiocese of Milwaukee