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12/14/2015
Bishop O'Connell's homily for the Third Sunday of Advent -- Opening of the Holy Door of Mercy at the Cathedral

Bishop David M. O'Connell, C.M.


December 13, 2015

For most of us, the idea of "going home" brings eagerness, comfort and joy, whether it be simply after a long day at work or, in some cases, a much longer period of separation.  It's good to be home.  When we walk up to the door of our house, we anticipate the good things behind it: family and loved ones waiting for us; things familiar to us; a place where we can be most truly ourselves, most truly "at home."
On Tuesday, December 8, the Catholic Church throughout the world began the Extraordinary Year of Jubilee, a Holy Year.  It is called "extraordinary" because such year-long celebrations usually occur only once every 25 or 50 years, the last one held in 2000.   It is called a jubilee, a holy year because it offers all Catholics another, special opportunity to encounter God the Father of mercy, an occasion of joy.
A Holy Year, in a sense, is a homecoming --- a return to the Church and all that it offers: a family; things familiar; the opportunity to be “at home” with God and one another---all things to celebrate with joy. Some of us may be very active in the Church and never far from home while others may not have darkened the door of the Church in a very long time.  In either case, it is appropriate for the whole Church community of faith to begin the homecoming that is this Holy Year of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis, walking through a door to discover what lies behind it, the Holy Door that welcomes us into this Holy Year of Mercy and into the experience of God’s mercy.

Opening the Holy Door at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome this past Tuesday, Pope Francis reminds us that “to enter through the Holy Door means to rediscover the deepness of the mercy of the Father who welcomes all and goes out to meet everyone personally.” That is the beautiful image we can and should hold on to: God waiting at the door for us to come home to his mercy, his love, his grace, his joy!

Perhaps for some, the idea of walking up to the door of the Church may bring some hesitation, some fear, some anxiety.  It may be a long time since we have passed through the door, a long time since we received the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist and we are afraid.  Perhaps we find some of the teachings of the Church hard to understand, to grasp or to follow and we don’t feel welcome or that we fit in.  Perhaps we had a bad or hurtful experience that has kept us away, harsh or unkind words or judgment.  If any or all of these feelings describe you or someone you know and love, then the Year of Mercy and the Holy Door is for you and exactly what you need.  Come in.  Come home.  Bring your family.  Bring a friend.  Bring someone who needs to feel welcome.

 

Pope Francis urges us, “Let us abandon all fear and dread for these do not befit men and women who are loved.  Instead, let us live the joy of encounter with the grace that transforms all.”  For us on the inside of the door the Holy Father says “We have to put mercy before judgment and in every case God’s judgment will be in the light of his mercy.”

In John’s Gospel we hear Jesus saying “I am the door.  By me, if any man enter in, he shall be saved; and he shall go in and go out and shall find pastures (John 10:9).” Jesus is at the door with his Father waiting for us, for you.  His greeting is the source of our joy!

Today, the 3rd Sunday of Advent, is traditionally called “Gaudete Sunday,” a Latin word from the prayers that begin this day’s Mass telling us “to rejoice.”  Advent is the doorway to the joys of Christmas when Jesus came to dwell with us.  It is a beautiful coincidence that we open the Holy Door of Mercy on this day of joy, for that is what mercy brings to our hearts and minds: the joy of encounter with Christ!

Our first reading today from the Book of the Prophet Zephaniah tells us “the Lord is in your midst, you have no further misfortune to fear … the Lord God is in your midst, a mighty savior; he will rejoice over you with gladness and renew you in his love.”  That’s what is waiting for us, that’s who is waiting for us on the other side of the Door of Mercy.  My sisters and brothers, come in; come home; find the mercy you need and share it with others.

Our second reading from the Letter to the Philippians encourages us “have no anxiety at all but in everything, by prayer and petition and thanksgiving,” make peace with God and let that peace guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus!  My sisters and brothers, come in the door; come home; find the mercy you need and share it with others.

Our Gospel reading from St. Luke presents John the Baptist inviting us how to ready ourselves to meet the Messiah: give what you have; do not take advantage of others; no more gossiping or judgment; hear the good news and proclaim it.  My sisters and brothers, bring your living faith to the door and come in; come home; find the mercy you need and share it.

The Season of Advent once again opens the door to the Savior, so rejoice.  The Holy Door of Mercy opens the door to forgiveness, compassion and love, so enter in and make yourself at home.       

 






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