Sunday, December 13, 2015

"An Invitation To Joy" – Across the Globe, "This Begins The Time of The Great Pardon"

Let us pray.

O God, all-powerful and merciful Father,
you grant your Church a time of grace, penance and forgiveness,
that she might have the joy to internally renew herself
by the work of the Holy Spirit
and to journey ever more faithfully in your ways
in announcing to the world the Gospel of salvation.
Open once more the door of your mercy
and welcome us one day into your dwelling in heaven,
where Jesus, your Son, has gone before us
and lives and reigns forever and ever.

* * *
With that prayer – and, in an add-on not seen at Tuesday's universal rites, the Veni Creator invoking the Holy Spirit – the Pope opened this Jubilee of Mercy for his local church with this morning's push on the Holy Door of Rome's cathedral, St John Lateran, echoing the act that's taking place this weekend in all the 4,000-plus dioceses of the world (most of which have designated Holy Doors at several churches beyond their respective cathedrals.)

In his brief yet pointed homily, while hinging per usual on this Gaudete Sunday's readings, Francis drilled further into his vision for the Extraordinary Holy Year, calling it "the time of the great pardon" and emphasizing that "before the Holy Door... we are asked to be instruments of mercy, knowing that we will be judged on this.

"God does not love rigidity," the Pope said.

Here, the Vatican translation of the text – which, in a rarity for a liturgy, included some off-script additions:
The invitation extended by the Prophet to the ancient city of Jerusalem is also addressed today to the whole Church and each one of us: "Rejoice ... exault!" (Zephaniah 3:14). The reason for joy is expressed with words that inspire hope, and which can look to the future with serenity. The Lord has annulled every condemnation and chose to live among us.

This third Sunday of Advent draws our gaze towards Christmas, which is now close. We cannot let ourselves be taken in by weariness; sadness in any form is not allowed, even though we have reason (for sadness), with many concerns and the many forms of violence which hurt our humanity. The coming of the Lord, however, must fill our hearts with joy. The prophet Zephaniah, in whose very name is inscribed the content of this announcement, opens our hearts to trust: "God protects" His people. In a historical context of great abuse and violence, especially by men of power, God knows that He will reign over his people, who would never leave them at the mercy of the arrogance of their leaders, and will free them from all anxiety. Today, we are asked not to let our “hands grow weak” because of doubt, impatience or suffering.

The Apostle Paul takes with force the teaching of the prophet Zephaniah and reiterates: "The Lord is near" (Phil 4,5). Because of this we should rejoice always, and with our affability give all witness of closeness and care that God has for each person.

We have opened the Holy Door, here and in all the cathedrals of the world. Even this simple sign is an invitation to joy. It begins a time of the great forgiveness. It is the Jubilee of Mercy. It is time to rediscover the presence of God and his fatherly tenderness. God does not love rigidity. He is Father; He is tender; everything done with the tenderness of the Father. We too, like the crowds asked John, "What do we do?" (Lk 3:10). The response of the Baptist was immediate. He invites us to act justly and to look after the needs of those in need. What John demands of his representatives, however, it is what is reflected in the law. We, however, are prompted toward a more radical commitment. Before the Holy Door we are called to cross, we are asked to be instruments of mercy, knowing that we will be judged on this. He who is baptized knows he has a greater commitment. Faith in Christ leads to a journey that lasts for a lifetime: to be merciful, like the Father. The joy of crossing through the Door of Mercy is accompanied by a commitment to welcome and witness to a love that goes beyond justice, a love that knows no boundaries. It is from this infinite love that we are responsible, in spite of our contradictions.

We pray for us and for all who pass through the Door of Mercy, that we may understand and welcome the infinite love of our Heavenly Father, recreates, transforms and reforms life.