Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
On December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Pope Francis formally began the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy when he opened the Holy Door at the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome. Following his example, cathedrals and churches across the world opened their own Holy Doors. On December 13, I opened a special Holy Door at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Gallup, New Mexico.
In the Scriptures, we are reminded again and again of the infinite compassion of God, who is rich in mercy. It is appropriate that the beginning of the “Year of Mercy” falls during Advent, the season in which we celebrate Christ humbling Himself to live among us. There is no greater display of God’s love than Christ, the living manifestation of the Father’s face of mercy. The words and deeds of Christ are continually at work in the Church through the gifts and guidance of the Holy Spirit.
The opening of a door is a physical reminder of God’s call to grace. As Pope Francis stated in his opening remarks: “This Extraordinary Holy Year is itself a gift of grace. To pass through the Holy Door means to rediscover the infinite mercy of the Father who welcomes everyone and goes out personally to encounter each of them.” It also shows that we recognize Christ as the sole door through which we enter salvation and the one way that leads to the Father. We must not be afraid to seek an encounter with Christ, and in doing so open ourselves to the gift of His infinite grace and compassion.
This Year of Mercy does not mean that Christ is suddenly more receptive to us than before. He has always loved us and desired us to know, love, and serve Him. Rather, this year is meant to stand in stark contrast to violence and evils committed by human beings which at times can be overwhelming. We must remember that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb 13:8). This is the ongoing pilgrimage of the Church: to move always toward Christ. What better way for a fallen world to make that pilgrimage than through a door, a symbol of hope, of grace, and of mercy.
Bishop James S. Wall