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

Monday, December 14, 2015


On Tuesday the Holy Father inaugurated the Jubilee Year of Mercy by opening the Holy Door at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. He asked that Bishops throughout the world also designate and open a holy door in their local cathedrals. In this way Catholics enter together into this beautiful season of grace.

Christian life begins and is sustained by the opening of a door, namely, the opening wide of the door of our heart and mind to welcome the mercy of God revealed and active in Jesus Christ. As we open this door, we see in a new light the many doors - decisions and transitions - that mark our daily living, and realize that we must close any doors that are unholy, that lead to wrong places, and open holy passageways to spaces consistent with life in Christ.

In fact, we can see many "holy doors" opening widely all around us. Many of our parishes are welcoming refugees from Syria, opening for them doors to a new life. In recent years we have worked with our city and others in the province to open for the homeless doors to a fresh start. I see in our schools doors opened to children with developmental disabilities or struggling with family rupture in order to surround them with love and community. Our hospitals advocate mightily for doors to open across our country for quality palliative care. Our social service agencies seek out those who are otherwise forgotten to open for them the door to inclusion within a community of love. This is not mere humanism. It springs from the mercy we have received from God, and is our response to the command of Jesus himself: "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful" (Luke 6:36).

This same command also compels us to close whatever unholy doors presently stand open in our lives, doorways leading to: anger and bitterness, refusals to forgive, cruelty and violence, greed, envy, licentiousness, prideful self-reliance, exploitation of others and so on. These are doors that must not simply be closed; they need to be slammed shut and hermetically sealed if we are truly to live as people of the Gospel, as people of mercy.

There is one door in particular that is opening before our country right now, a very unholy door indeed. Canada is legalizing assisted suicide and euthanasia. This is a door of astonishing arrogance, fashioned on the presumption that we can judge the quality of another's life or determine on our own when life is no longer worth living. It claims to be a door of mercy, when in fact it is one that opens onto a room with no floor, a vast abyss in which respect for the sanctity of human life falls away and the weak and vulnerable are left with no sure foothold. Even though the State may open this door, we must be clear that it should remain solidly closed and have nothing to do with it. With equal clarity we must speak up for the conscience rights of doctors and healthcare professionals as they resist the pressure to substitute killing for care.

Pope Francis has called this Holy Year a "Jubilee", that is to say, a time of rejoicing. We rejoice because the Lord is near and will never allow evil to have the last word. That last word always belongs to him, and it is: mercy. The gift of divine mercy is the only sure antidote to the viruses of arrogance and bitterness. It is thus the only sure way to peace among peoples and nations. This Holy Year, this Jubilee, is a wonderful opportunity to rejoice in God's merciful love and in the peace that flows from it. Let us pray for the grace to open wide the doors of our hearts to the gift of God's tender and merciful love, and the doors of love and compassion to our world.