On 8 December, Pope Francis gave a homily in St. Peter’s Square for the Mass which opened the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy and marked the Marian Solemnity. As part of the inauguration of a year that will see the Catholic Church promoting mercy and forgiveness, he opened the holy door at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, in the presence of tens of thousands of spectators.
A Jubilee year is a special year called by the Catholic Church to receive blessing and pardon from God, as well as remission of sins. This particular Jubilee is distinct from previous ones, as the Holy Father has called for dioceses all over the world to open their own holy doors, in order to expand the observance of the Jubilee beyond Rome.
To mark the occasion, the Pontiff explained that the love of God proceeds, anticipates, and saves: “Not only does he forgive sin, but in Mary he even averts the original sin present in every man and woman who comes into this world.”
He added: “Yet the history of sin can only be understood in the light of God’s love and forgiveness”.
“Were sin the only thing that mattered, we would be the most desperate of creatures. But the promised triumph of Christ’s love enfolds everything in the Father’s mercy. The word of God, which we have just heard, leaves no doubt about this. The Immaculate Virgin stands before us as a privileged witness of this promise and its fulfilment.”
This Extraordinary Holy Year, Francis noted, 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.
While Pope Francis stressed that this year we will grow ever more convinced of God’s mercy, he also quoted Saint Augustine: “How much wrong we do to God and his grace when we speak of sins being punished by his judgment before we speak of their being forgiven by his! But that is the truth. We have to put mercy before judgment, and in any event God’s judgment will always be in the light of his mercy.”
Passing through the Holy Door, he said, should invite us to be part of this mystery of love. “Let us set aside all fear and dread, for these do not befit men and women who are loved. Instead, let us experience the joy of encountering that grace which transforms all things”.
“May our passing through the Holy Door commit us to making our own the mercy of the Good Samaritan,” Pope Francis prayed.