By Most Rev. Richard W. Smith, Archbishop of Edmonton

Monday, November 14, 2016

A Closed Door that Remains Open

Yesterday, in cathedrals throughout the world, the closing of Holy Doors marked the end of the Jubilee Year in the local Churches. Pope Francis will close the Holy Door at St. Peter’s in Rome next weekend to bring the Jubilee formally to a close. This signals the termination of a grace-filled time in which we were invited to focus in a particularly close way upon the wondrous gift of God’s mercy. The Jubilee reminded us that, even as we close physical doors in our churches, the doors of mercy in our hearts are to remain always open to receive God’s gift of pardon, first of all, and to share that grace with others through the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.

When we place this teaching in the context of the Gospel reading for Sunday, we become aware of another holy door opening before us: the door to eternal life. Those two doors - the door of mercy and the door to eternal life - are inseparably linked.

In these last Sundays of the Church year the Scripture readings point us toward the end of time, when Christ will come again in his glory to judge the living and the dead. In so doing they remind us that this life on earth is only temporary. People were shocked when Jesus said that even the strong and magnificent Temple in Jerusalem would come to an end, that not one stone would be left upon another. In other words, all is passing; all is contingent. Only God's love and his plan to save the world in Christ is unshakeable and indestructible. In this light we recognize that life in this passing world is to be lived with an eye to the future one. Here we see the link between the two doors: by keeping open the doors of mercy, as Jesus has commanded, we live in the hope that he will lead us through the door to eternal life.

Such a life of mercy is not without its challenges and even dangers. We heard Jesus warn that the Christian life, authentically lived, will often be met with resistance and even persecution. It is not difficult to see why this is so. When we open doors of mercy we are proclaiming the vision of life that arises from the teaching of Christ himself. The Gospel proposes a worldview that challenges accepted and prevailing viewpoints and mindsets. For this reason, our Gospel proclamation is often met with resistance. We find this verified in our own experience. When we challenge the unholy doors opening around us - doors to practices that threaten human life from beginning to natural end, doors that open onto views of marriage, sexuality and gender that are opposite to God's creative purpose, doors leading to racism and bigotry, poverty and exclusion - then we soon find that we are not very popular. In the face of criticism and pushback we can experience the temptation just to stay quiet, to go along in order to get along. But we know we can't. Indeed, open doors of mercy impel us to speak against anything contrary to human dignity. Jesus assures us not to be afraid but to trust that he will grant us the words to speak. I often think of a parishioner from my days as a parish priest in Nova Scotia. She once told me that she was very nervous about having to confront her child on a difficult and sensitive matter. Her prayer was “Holy Spirit, land on my tongue!” That’s a prayer that arises out of the promise of Christ himself. If we trust in him and venture to speak the truth, he will give us the words we need.

This has been a wonderful year of grace. Thank you, Pope Francis! May God grant us the gift of perseverance, so that, in any and all circumstances, our doors remain open as we respond to the call to be heralds and agents of the mercy that heals and liberates.