Opening the Holy Door Bishop Ray Browne Homily

Jubilee Year:  A year when all in our Church worldwide, as communities and as individuals, are called to stop, to look around and take stock: to see the bigger picture of my life; to see what matters; to be sure I have my priorities right; to count my blessings. Has God his rightful place in my life. Are we, am I, living as God Our Father wants us to live?

For centuries and more a Holy Door has been part of the Jubilee Year tradition, always in Rome and people are invited to go on pilgrimage. Pope Francis asks that for this Jubilee there be a Holy Door in every Cathedral and other major places of Christian pilgrimage. Thus our gathering this afternoon to open our Holy Door. I thank you all for being present, especially those who have travelled a long distance.

A Holy Door is a door to a better world, a better world because Christ’s presence is recognised and appreciated.  Each Jubilee year has a theme. The theme is like a key to unlock the Door to this better world. For this year Pope Francis has chosen the theme of ‘Mercy’. Mercy unlocks the door to a better world for all of us:

Firstly, the mercy of God for the human family and all of creation; God’s mercy when our situation is desperate, hopeless, and we need help; God’s mercy when we do wrong, sin. Our trust in God’s mercy.

Secondly, and of equal importance: we ourselves showing mercy to others: when their situation is desperate, hopeless and they need help; when they do us wrong. Mercy in the parable of the Good Samaritan. Mercy in the words of Jesus; “ I was hungry, naked,  sick, in prison, . . .  ‘As long as you did it to one of these the least of my brethren you did it to me’.” The mercy of God is at work when we are merciful to others.

Mercy means that God accepts me as I am, he is there for me in all my needs. He wants me to be there for others, especially in their hour of need, – most especially for the poor and destitute of the world. He wants us all to be there for each other.

Pope Francis insists that just as mercy is key to responding to the deep troubles of an individual person or family, mercy is also the key to the world’s problems: problems of war, of violence and strife, of poverty. To show how urgent this need is Pope Francis broke with tradition and opened a Holy Door in Africa ten days before he officially began the Holy Year in St Peter’s in Rome. Pope Francis is convinced that ‘mercy’ can make a major difference in our troubled world.

He was visiting  Africa’s most war-torn land, the Central African Republic. It was spoken of as the first ever visit by a pope to a ‘war zone’. Their plight is truly awful.  As he opened the Holy Door in the Cathedral of the country’s capital, Bangui he said:  “Bangui is the spiritual capital of the prayer for God’s mercy. Together let us pray for peace, mercy, reconciliation and forgiveness, love. For Bangui, for all of the CAR,  and for the entire world and everyone who suffers from war, we ask for peace.”    He called on people to lay down their weapons and to show mercy to their enemies.

How appropriate is today’s reading from St Paul to the Philippians:   “I want you to be happy, always happy in the Lord; I repeat, what I want is your happiness. Let your tolerance be evident to everyone: the Lord is very near.”  Through mercy this can be true for our world.

I will conclude my words with five sentences (3 from Misericordiae Vultus) that capture the heart of a walk through the Holy Door, the heart of Pope Francis’ hope for the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

  1. “Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy.  Jesus of Nazareth by his words, his actions, and his entire person reveals the mercy of God.”(1)              The face on every Crucifix, the face of the new born baby Jesus in the crib, the face of the Father’s mercy.
  2. “Take and drink, my blood, which will be poured out for you and for many, for the forgiveness of sins.”                        The ultimate display of his mercy, his death for our salvation. God’s mercy is at the heart of every Mass we celebrate.
  3. Mary, the Magnificat:   “His mercy is from age to age on those who fear him”.        Our Holy Door is Our Lady’s Door, the door beside Our Lady’s Chapel. The fear we experience in the presence of one of incredible love and goodness and power, the presence of the Almighty.
  4. “Mercy: 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.” ( 2)     The eyes in your home, the eyes of your neighbours, of the people of our country, the eyes of people in need anywhere on earth: their eyes are the eyes of your brothers and sisters.
  5. “Merciful like the Father. . .  Be merciful just as your heavenly Father is merciful.”(13) The Mercy of God the Father is certain, it is never absent. How many, many opportunities, both great and small, are there for each one of us in every day to show mercy?

Bishop Ray Browne

Homily:  Opening of the Holy Door.

St Mary’s  Cathedral, Killarney

3rd Sunday of Advent 2015