On December 8, 2015, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, Pope Francis solemnly opened the Holy Door at Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome, ushering in the Jubilee Year of Mercy. On the following Sunday, the Third Sunday of Advent, December 13th, the Holy Door of the Cathedral of Rome, the Basilica of Saint John Lateran, was opened. In the following weeks, the Holy Doors of other Papal Basilicas and local cathedral churches in every country will be opened. The Year of Mercy will close with the celebration of the Solemnity of Christ the King, November 20, 2016.
Imagine that as the cascade of church doors open around the world, God is lavishing gifts of mercy and love on all who come to Him. Like the father in the prodigal son parable, God not only waits for us but actually runs to us when we turn and come near.
Receiving God’s love opens the doors of our hearts to our sisters and brothers so that we might share with them the love and mercy we have received in such abundance. This is “a program of life as demanding as it is rich with joy and peace,” says Pope Francis. It is demanding because yielding to God always entails a process of ongoing conversion. It is joyful and peaceful because we walk together in the work of God in our world.
Pope Francis’ teaching on divine mercy in The Face of Mercy is profound and worthy of contemplation. We are moved to prayer as we consider how God’s mercy both fills us and goes even beyond justice in bringing us to full communion with God. “No one can be excluded from God’s mercy,” the Holy Father added in his surprise announcement of this special time of grace and spiritual renewal for the people of God.
God’s mercy has been certainly a hall mark of Pope Francis’ entire pontificate. He has unceasingly preached and promoted this theme in interviews, homilies, addresses and writing. It is a consistent message that he often references in his almost daily correspondence.
Reading the document The Face of Mercy we come across some beautiful and touching statements. “Mercy is the bridge that connects God and Man, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness.
“Mercy is the fundamental law that dwells in the heart of every person who looks sincerely into the eyes of his brothers and sisters on the path of life.
“God’s mercy is the mark of His omnipotence, rather than a sign of weakness.
“In mercy, we find proof of how God loves us. He gives His entire self, always, freely, asking nothing in return.”
My prayer is that we engage this time of grace to deepen our appreciation of God’s tremendous love for us and that we commit to extend that compassion to those who live in such great need these days.
By Fr. Joseph Rinaldo, SdC