Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Opening the Holy Door of Mercy

The opening of the Holy Door is a traditional part of the inauguration of a Jubilee year. Check out this video of Pope Francis opening the Holy Door at St. Peter's on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception at the beginning of the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

The act of opening the door is rich in symbolism. Saint John Paul II began his pontificate with these memorable words: "Be not afraid. Open, I say open wide the doors to Christ." Pope Benedict XVI in the inaugural Mass of his own pontificate reiterated JPII's exhortation saying: "Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ – and you will find true life."

The Scriptures too speak of opening the doors.  Psalm 24:7 says: "Lift up your heads, o gates! And be lifted up o ancient doors! That the king of glory may come in." In the book of Revelation (3:20) Jesus himself invites us to open the door of our hearts saying: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door,  I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me."

Notice a pattern here?  The Lord does not come barging through the door of our hearts. It is we who must open the door in response to Jesus' gentle knock.  He issues the invitation, but the freedom to either open the door or allow it to remain shut remains squarely in our hands.

Placing our hand on the doorknob and turning requires and act of faith on our part. The words from Revelation assure us that the rewards of opening that door is an experience of exquisite intimacy with the Lord - he will come in and dine with us and we with him. 

In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, we especially experience this act of faith each time we open the door of the confessional. The confessional door becomes a Holy Door of Mercy and walking through it is a sign of our willingness to allow the Lord to enter into the deepest and darkest recesses of our heart with his forgiveness and healing power. It is in the experience of this great sacrament of the Lord's mercy that we experience the "true life" Pope Benedict XVI referred to.

Often, we may have many excuses for not opening the door to Christ. Perhaps we have been hurt or misunderstood by someone representing the church.  We may be afraid or filled with shame at our own sins or shortcomings. Our own independence and self-sufficiency can lead us to believe that we are doing just fine, thank you very much, just as we are.  Whatever our reasons, opening the door to Jesus can only lead to a flood of love and mercy, the likes of which we cannot experience any where else.

During this year of Mercy, let us ask the Lord for the grace to open the door of our hearts to him in a new and deeper way. 

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