Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Mercy, O God, Mercy

By Beth DeCristofaro

I am the LORD, your God, who grasp your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I will help you.” I will help you, says the LORD; your redeemer is the Holy One of Israel. I will make of you a threshing sledge, sharp, new, and double-edged, to thresh the mountains and crush them, to make the hills like chaff. (Isaiah 41:13-15)

Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. (Matthew 11:11)

O God, be merciful to me, a sinner.

The God of Israel again and again reminded the Chosen People that they were His and He saves them from themselves and from enemies.  Jesus germinated the Old Testament images of crushing and threshing into saving through his love, his helplessness, his “Yes”, his death and ultimately his resurrection.  He told his followers that to be invited into the Kingdom is to be among the greatest, even greater than the Baptist. 

Pope Francis’s declaration of the Year of Mercy has roots in the traditions of our fathers in faith.  An Old Testament tradition of jubilee freed slaves and prisoners took place once every 50 years.  "How much wrong we do to God and his grace when we speak of sins being punished by his judgement before we speak of being forgiven by his mercy," Pope Francis said.  "We have to put mercy before judgement... Let us set aside all fear and dread, for these do not befit men and women who are loved."

Even as he invokes the rich traditions of our ancestors, Pope Francis looks forward.  In a break with Catholic tradition, Pope Francis has declared that during this Jubilee Year of Mercy, every diocese may designate a “Holy Door,” symbol of Jesus as the door, the gateway, to salvation which we are all welcome to enter.  In the past only five churches had such holy doors but the Pope wants all to take advantage of pilgrimage in their own home.  In keeping with the theme of bringing the mercy of Jesus to all the faithful, Pope Francis is also designating special confessors and also priests will be allowed to absolve women who have had abortions. At St. Peters in Rome, the Pope prayed on December 8, "Open the gates of justice." As he pushed open the Holy Door, a symbol of God's justice, which he said will always be applied in God’s mercy.

Arlington Bishop Paul Loverde is scheduled to open the Holy Door at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More Sunday, Dec. 13, during the 11 a.m. Mass.  Consider making a pilgrimage this year and pass through these doors, reflecting on and renewing your relationship with Jesus.

For more information, a brief but interesting video can be found here:  “What is a Holy Door?” (You can also watch this via a link in the Catholic Herald online.)

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