Jubilee Year of Mercy and School Leadership - Part 1

Jubilee Year of Mercy and School Leadership - Part 1

13 January 2016

What does the Jubilee Year of Mercy mean for headteacher recruitment?


Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.  (Luke 6:36)

Pope Francis has declared this year to be an Extraordinary Year of Jubilee, bearing the motto "be merciful as the father is merciful". Sounds wonderful doesn't it? But what does it mean exactly? For us personally, our parishes, church schools and even our approach to the headteacher recruitment process?

It is often said that mercy must first be understood and experienced before it can then be extended to others. An understanding of God's compassion towards each of us personally is vital if we are to be a compassionate people able to fulfil Jesus' command (for it is a command I'm afraid, not a suggestion) to be merciful just as our Father is merciful.

Bishop Robert Barron defines mercy as "what love looks like when it turns towards the sinner", yet the Holy Father's definition is simpler still: Jesus Christ is the face of the Father's mercy. In His life we see mercy incarnate and in His death the Father's anecdote to the sinful state of humanity is displayed for all to see.

In his short and thought-provoking video blog (embedded below) Fr Matt Guckin explains that the Hebrew word for mercy "hesed" can be translated as "to jump into someone's skin"; to see as they see and to feel as they feel.  He argues that in the nativity scene we see the ultimate expression of God's mercy, for in the incarnation God literally jumps into our skin and takes on our flesh.  As such, He is able to deal with us not as some distant, detached, majestic figure but as one who intimately understands what it means to be human.

That is how the Father displays mercy, by jumping into man's skin. And Jesus commands us to do the same.

As I was reflecting on Pope Francis' exhortation for Christians everywhere to be "missionaries of mercy", I was struck by how alien such a concept is in our culture, particularly in the world of recruitment, where it is so much easier to judge and dismiss rather than seek to understand and extend mercy.

After all, judgement requires so much less of us than mercy. How much easier it is to make assumptions about an application based on preconceived ideas and perceived flaws rather than to interview an applicant with an open mind and heart, showing a readiness to "jump into their skin" and engage with them as a person, not holding them to a higher moral code and ruthless scrutiny than we ourselves could bear. Accepting that the ability to write a good application and the ability to be a good headteacher are not one and the same thing.

So during this Jubilee Year of Mercy why don't we follow our Father's lead and adopt a more merciful approach to the headteacher recruitment process; differentiating ourselves from the merciless performance-based assessment that characterises the secular world. We could start by discerning an applicant's suitability from a place of empathy rather than criticism. And if there exist questions and concerns about a candidate's application, why not call them up and ask them? Or even go the extra mile and interview them so as to meet them in the flesh and perhaps experience what the late Catholic Priest and Theologian James Alison described as "the joy of being wrong"?  The fact that we make mistakes (and sometimes learn from them), have regrets and aspire to do things differently next time - surely this is all a given? Perhaps only when we offer the mercy that is shown to us every day can we start to look a bit more like our Father's children.



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