Entering through the Door of Mercy - Third Sunday of Advent (C)

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Home > Archbishop > Homilies > Entering through the Door of Mercy - Third Sunday of Advent (C)

 

To pass through a door is to pass from one place to another. To pass through the door into this cathedral marks a transition from being in the external environment of the world and entering into a sacred place. Indeed in the act of entering into any church – passing through the door - one has a sense that here is a new and particular place. This is the house of God; this is a house of prayer. The interior of a church is marked by many sacred images and signs: our eyes are drawn to the sanctuary, to the main altar, to the ambo where the Scriptures are proclaimed. Our eyes see the sanctuary lamp reminding us that the Lord in present in this place, in the tabernacle.

Within the building of the church are many of sacred signs and symbols: the main crucifix, the stained glass windows, the statues, the Stations of the Cross. There are pews rather than chairs, there are places to kneel, shrines to go for personal prayer. The interior of a church in so many ways draws us in an awareness of another world, the spiritual world.

We crossed a threshold to enter this world of the spirit, and to do so we entered through a door.

In St John’s Gospel, the Lord describes himself as a door: “Truly, I am the door; if any one enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10: 7-10)

In the Book of Revelations an image is given of the Lord standing at the door and knocking:  “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me”. (Rev 3:20) The Lord longs to enter into our homes, into our lives, into our hearts. He desires to come in and share himself with us.

We can describe Baptism as the door to faith. Through this Sacrament we become members of the household of the faith.

And there is one final door through which we all must pass, it is the door of death opening up to life eternal.
The tradition of a Holy Door associated with a Jubilee year is one that can be traced back to the year 1499. On the eve of the year 1500 (on Christmas eve) Pope Alexander VI declared the coming year a Jubilee Year. During that year of Jubilee, the Pope requested that the great basilicas of Rome were to have a door dedicated as a Holy Door, a Porta Sancta. Pilgrims were invited to visit these churches by passing through a specially set aside Holy Door.

During this particular Jubilee Year Pope Francis invites us to see the Holy Door as “a Door of Mercy” commenting that this door through which people enter “will experience the love of God who consoles, pardons, and instills hope.” In other words Pope Francis has asked us to pass through the Holy Door with a particular awareness: this is a door of mercy. Thus, we enter the door in the spirit of seeking the mercy of God.

To do this we need to approach the door with an awareness that we are sinners in need of mercy. We need to approach the door with a humble and contrite heart. As we pass through the door the prayer in our hearts should be: Kyrie Eleison, Lord have mercy.

Passing through the Door of Mercy during this Jubilee Year is meant to be a deeply personal moment, a spiritual moment, a moment when we are seeking the mercy of God towards us.

This door is open for all who seek to enter. In this way the Door of Mercy is an invitation to approach God with a sincere heart. God waits in the church to show the depth of his mercy to anyone who seeks it. Thus what is important is our inner dispositions as we pass through the Door of Mercy. We pass through the door with an internal desire for conversion. We cross the threshold to meet the mercy of the Father so that we are able to move from sin to grace, from slavery to freedom, from darkness to light.

The Pope has declared that entering the Door of Mercy in this year of Jubilee is a sacred pilgrimage. When one crosses this threshold, one is greeted, as the Pope says, by the loving experience of a God who consoles, pardons and instills in us a future full of hope.

In his proclamation of the Extraordinary Jubilee Year, Misericordiae Vultus, the Pope commented: “The practice of pilgrimage has a special place in the Holy Year, because it represents the journey each of us makes in this life. Life itself is a pilgrimage, and the human being is a viator, a pilgrim travelling along the road, making his way to the desired destination”.

He then says, “Similarly, to reach the Holy Door in Rome or in any other place in the world, everyone, each according to his or her ability, will have to make a pilgrimage. This will be a sign that mercy is also a goal to reach and requires dedication and sacrifice. May pilgrimage be an impetus to conversion: by crossing the threshold of the Holy Door, we will find the strength to embrace God’s mercy and dedicate ourselves to being merciful with others as the Father has been with us.”

When he opened the Holy Door in Rome last Tuesday, Pope Francis commented that this “Extraordinary Year is itself a grace”. He said that “to pass through the Holy Door means to rediscover the infinite mercy of the Father who welcomes everyone and goes out to personally encounter them”. He hopes and prays that during this Holy Year we will all grow more convinced of God’s mercy.

It is his desire that those who pass through a Holy Door will feel part of the mystery of love and tenderness. He then adds, “Let us set aside all fear and dread” and instead “let us experience the joy of encountering that grace which transforms all things”.

May this Jubilee Year be a year of grace for the Archdiocese of Hobart.

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Saturday, 12 December 2015