His mercy endures forever

Archbishop Paul S. Coakley

This past Sunday, I had the privilege of ritually sealing a door at Our Lady’s Cathedral that has been designated as a “holy door” in anticipation of the Jubilee of Mercy, which begins on Dec. 8.

What is a holy door? Each of the four major basilicas in Rome has a holy door that remains sealed until the beginning of each Holy Year, which ordinarily occurs every 25 years. On Dec. 8, Pope Francis will unseal the holy door at Saint Peter’s in Rome, and in subsequent days he will open the holy doors at the other three major basilicas.

As a visible sign of the Church’s universal communion, Pope Francis has granted permission for each cathedral to have a holy door as well as any other church that the diocesan bishop may so designate. I will formally open the holy door at our cathedral on Dec. 13.

When the Holy Father opens the holy door to inaugurate the Jubilee of Mercy, it will become a Door of Mercy. Those who pass through the Door of Mercy throughout the duration of the Jubilee year are invited to “experience the love of God who consoles, pardons and instills hope,” as Pope Francis says in “Misericordiae Vultus,” the papal bull that formally announces this extraordinary jubilee year.

Many thousands of pilgrims will travel to Rome during the Jubilee of Mercy, which runs through the Solemnity of Christ the King in 2016. They will prepare during their pilgrimage to receive a special jubilee indulgence granted to those who pass through the Jubilee Doors. Since most Catholics cannot travel all the way to Rome, and wishing to encourage as many as possible to participate as pilgrims during this Jubilee of Mercy, I have designated eight churches around the archdiocese as places of pilgrimage, each with its own Jubilee Door.

When the proper conditions have been met (such as sacramental confession, reception of the Eucharist, prayers for the pope and no attachment to sin) those who pass through the Jubilee Doors may receive a plenary indulgence for the remission of all temporal punishment due to sin. This indulgence is offered as a sign of the Father’s overflowing mercy. Pope Francis writes, “When faced with the gravity of sin, God responds with the fullness of mercy. Mercy will always be greater than any sin, and no one can place limits on the love of God who is ever ready to forgive.”

“Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy. These words might well sum up the mystery of the Christian faith.”

With these simple but powerful statements, Pope Francis begins his proclamation of the Jubilee of Mercy. This year is intended as a time of special grace for the whole Church to refocus on the mercy that God extends to each of us in sending his Son, born of the Virgin Mary, to suffer, die and rise victorious for our salvation. Mercy is the heart of the Gospel. We can say this, and we might even believe it. But, all too often we fail to experience this truth. We fail to experience the joy of the Gospel, which is the normal fruit of an encounter with God’s mercy.

This jubilee year offers each of us an opportunity to encounter mercy, especially through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which is the preeminent sacrament of mercy.

Mercy will undoubtedly be the special focus of homilies and catechesis throughout this year. The Jubilee of Mercy offers the opportunity and encouragement to rediscover and practice the traditional spiritual and corporal works of mercy as we reach out to those on the margins of society and on the peripheries of the Church’s life and ministry. These forgotten ones, the least of our brothers and sisters, are the ones that we are being called to recognize and embrace with Christ’s own mercy. Who are the ones in our communities who most need to experience mercy? In what aspect of our own lives do we need to experience mercy? With whom do we need to seek reconciliation? How can we become channels of mercy ourselves?

You will be hearing and reading much about the theme of mercy in the months ahead. This Jubilee cannot be reduced to just another program, however. It cannot remain abstract. Mercy has a face. Mercy has a name: Jesus. Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life. It is he who invites us to pass through the Jubilee Door, which is an image of his own pierced Heart, to experience the mercy that the Father wishes to lavish upon each of us.

Holy Doors in the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City:
1. The Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, OKC
2. Saint Joseph Old Cathedral, OKC
3. National Shrine of the Infant Jesus of Prague, Prague
4. Holy Cross, Madill
5. Saint Mary, Guthrie
6. Saint Gregory’s Abbey, Shawnee
7. Saint Peter, Woodward
8. Blessed Sacrament, Lawton
For locations and parish map, click here.