The end of the Year of Mercy will also mean the closure of Holy Doors which have been specifically opened and designated for the special Jubilee the world over. But the message and exhortation to be merciful should not end when the doors close. God’s marching orders to be merciful, as He is, should continue to the ends of the earth, through all time.
PUBLISHED ONOct 2016
Passing through many cities in China, I was positively impressed by the efforts that each diocese has put in decorating the “Doors of Mercy” in each cathedral. Some of them are truly beautiful. Some explanations are often put at the side of the door to illustrate both the meaning of the Year of Mercy and the process of obtaining the plenary indulgence. However, I can sense that the enthusiasm about this special Jubilee has quickly faded away after the first months of the 2016, when most of the Catholics had already personally received the indulgence. Looking at those beautifully decorated “Doors of Mercy” I was wondering: how could we keep them open in their essential meaning, even after the end of the Jubilee?
Church of China, be merciful!
To receive God’s merciful love for us through repentance was only the first aspect of the Year of Mercy. The second one, which is easy to be overlooked, is the desire to live in a merciful way. We should not forget that the motto of the Year of Mercy is Jesus’ invitation, “Be merciful just as your Father is merciful” (Lk 6:36).We should remember too that the Parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15 is, first of all, a parable which reveals the face of the Merciful Father, and that true repentance not only means to return to Him but also to become merciful as He is. His feelings, his choices, His Heart have to become our feelings, our choices, our way of life. The hope is that the Church in China, still painfully divided within itself in dealing with the extremely complex ecclesial situation, will remember to always keep a door for dialogue, reconciliation and mutual understanding, open.
Doors to “go out, go forth”
An aspect of the Year of Mercy that should be perpetuated after the Jubilee but may be easily forgotten is to announce God’s mercy to the world. As Pope Francis said: “The Church is commissioned to announce the mercy of God, the beating heart of the Gospel which, in its own way, must penetrate the heart and mind of every person. The Spouse of Christ must pattern her behavior after the Son of God who went out to everyone without exception. In the present day, as the Church is charged with the task of the new evangelization, the theme of mercy needs to be proposed again and again with new enthusiasm and renewed pastoral action. It is absolutely essential for the Church and for the credibility of her message that she herself live and testify to mercy. Her language and her gestures must transmit mercy so as to touch the hearts of all people and inspire them once more to find the road that leads to the Father” [Misericordiae Vultus 12].
The Church in China is becoming more and more equipped as far as structures are concerned. Even though in many areas of China the Catholic Church is still very poor, we can say that slowly the “hardware” of the ecclesial life is being set in place (buildings, pastoral centers, groups, steady income, etc.). In the past years, so much effort has been put into this endeavor, and so many sacrifices were made so that the Chinese Church might have some basic structures needed to live out its faith! What I feel important now is to increasingly use the “mission software” so that the resources may be destined for first evangelization of non-Christians. Otherwise, all the hardware will soon become obsolete and useless, just empty boxes.
To be “merciful in action” and to be “missionary” go hand in hand. Both are the living “out” what we are “inside” (i.e., God’s children who have been loved and forgiven and, therefore, able to love others), both are the expressions of the outward movement of God’s love. The world needs to hear the Good News of God’s love as much as it needs people to show it through action.
“The present-day mentality, more perhaps than that of people in the past, seems opposed to a God of mercy and, in fact, tends to exclude from life and to remove from the human heart the very idea of mercy,” said the Pope, quoting John Paul II. Therefore, the closing of this special Jubilee is a good time to renew our availability to become merciful persons and persons available to announce God’s mercy to the world. If we do so, the Door of Mercy will be kept open even for many years to come, not only for us to enter and receive mercy but, above all, to go out and go forth, sent by the Risen Christ to a world thirsting for love and mercy as much as we do.