Dec. 23, 2015
Bishop LaValley’s homily for the Opening of the Holy Door to launch the diocesan observance of the Extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy, Dec. 13 at St. Mary’s Cathedral
Doors serve a practical purpose in any house of worship. They also have deep religious symbolism in the Church.
The first of the ancient minor orders was that of a doorkeeper, a porter, who before his ordination was urged by the bishop to use his words and example as spiritual keys to close the hearts of the faithful to the devil and open them to hearing and fulfilling the word of God.
Of course, you know well the porter who was canonized a saint not long ago, the doorkeeper, the Miracle Man of Montreal, St. Brother Andre Bessette. First at Notre Dame College in Montreal, then at St. Joseph Oratory, this humble, sickly man opened the door and warmly welcomed all those seeking healing for themselves or loved ones. Perhaps members of your own family were blessed by his presence.
With the opening of our Door of Mercy followed by the solemn procession at the start of Mass, we are reminded of the Church’s ongoing pilgrimage toward Jesus Christ and our response to His invitation, “Follow Me,” who am rich in mercy.
There is a rich symbolism in crossing the threshold of a doorway to mark a new life, a fresh start, the transition to a renewed relationship with God. Advent, a new Church year, is about freshness, starting anew, forgiveness.
Passing through the Holy Door symbolizes our desire in Christ to leave behind any attraction to sin and to open our hearts to His gift of mercy and reconciliation Pope Francis tells us: “The Holy Door will become a Door of Mercy through which anyone who enters will experience the love of God who consoles, pardons, and instills hope.”
Each of us sinners is invited to move from a life that’s centered on self to a life that’s more centered on God. We can’t make it happen, of course, but if we make a start on this journey we can be sure that God will meet us on the way.
Let me suggest a few things that might be helpful for the journey.
The first thing is to reflect upon the life of Jesus and get to know Him as a real person. Jesus told Philip: “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (Jn.14:8). Pope Francis, in announcing this Jubilee of Mercy, reminds us that Jesus is the Face of the Father’s mercy.
This year we want to gaze even more deeply at the face of Divine Mercy, Jesus Christ. We can do that by opening up the New Testament regularly and, in our imagination, seat ourselves in a quiet corner close to where Jesus is, and watch and listen to Him, for instance, as He shows and tells you about the Father’s tender love and boundless mercy in the parable about a son’s return home, an older brother’s reaction and a father’s unconditional love and compassion.
Imagine you are there when the woman, a public sinner, washed the Lord’s feet with her tears, this woman who loved much.
Little by little you’ll get more comfortable with Jesus’ tender and merciful presence.
A dialogue may even get started between the two of you as you gaze upon His Face.
Secondly, tell Jesus you want to help build a community of love and truth and justice on our earth, that you desire to be a bridge builder and peace maker through your willingness to forgive and show mercy.
Wait for God. Sounds like an Advent theme, doesn’t it?
Those of us who are older can remember a time when our faith was supported by an elaborate religious structure - devotional practices such as forty hours, benediction, Marian devotions, abstinence on Fridays and special prayer days such as All Souls.
Now that these things are less in evidence than before, we are faced with the question: Was our faith merely in those comfortable and familiar structures, or did we actually reach out to the holy and mysterious God behind them?
Two thousand years ago, John the Baptist gave some predictable advice to those who asked for it, but he also pointed them forward towards a Person, whose face reflected the very love and mercy of our Father, who was about to enter their lives in a new way.
That’s what Advent should be doing for us, too -looking forward with great hope and joy.
Let each of us resolve, as we begin the journey of this Jubilee Year of Mercy, to become more merciful in our own lives so that we can go out to others bringing the goodness and compassion that we have found in our God.
There is a tremendous need for tenderness, reconciliation and healing in our hurting world.
Pope Francis wants our parishes to become “islands of mercy in a sea of indifference.” Particularly during this Year of Mercy, each time we pass through the threshold of this sacred space, let us not forget that we are a pilgrim people, ever on the move, one step at a time, yearning for healing and forgiveness in a world darkened so much by hatred and terror.
Let there be peace on earth, let it begin here-deep within me. Lord Have Mercy on us all!