On Sunday, Dec. 13 I had the privilege to open the Holy Doors of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels to mark the start of this Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy.
A door that is open is a sign of welcome and hospitality. And in this Year of Mercy, God is opening wide the door to salvation, welcoming everyone into his house, his family, the Church.
Every one of us needs to pass through this door of mercy. This Year of Mercy is a new time for all of us to seek and rediscover the mercy of God.
Our Christian life is meant to be a life of continuing conversion to God — every day, year after year, growing deeper in our love for God and our commitment to being his disciples. And conversion always begins — and always begins anew — when we become aware of God’s mercy and love in our lives.
So this is an important year for the Church. But it is also an important year for the world.
Nearly a generation ago now, St. John Paul II wrote: “The present-day mentality, more perhaps than that of people in the past, seems opposed to a God of mercy, and in fact tends to exclude from life and to remove from the human heart the very idea of mercy.”
Sadly, I think this is even more true today.
In a world where it seems that war and violence are constant, a world that confronts us daily with the realities of spiritual and material poverty, injustice and human suffering, many find no “evidence” for a God of mercy, no “proof” that creation is being guided by a loving hand.
And as society’s belief in God’s mercy fades, we see that the idea of mercy is declining in our public life. We see it in some of the statements of our politicians and in our media on certain issues — we seem to be getting colder and tougher in our language, more fearful and less forgiving. Are we becoming what St. John Paul suggested, a people with no mercy?
This is one of the core challenges of the new evangelization — to proclaim God’s mercy to a society with no mercy, to hearts that seem to have forgotten the very idea of mercy.
As I see it, mercy is the question of our times and it is also the answer.
The people of our times want to know if mercy is real and, if it is, they want to know, where can mercy be found?
Our Holy Father Pope Francis tells us that the Church must be a “credible witness to mercy.” And he is right. Mercy alone can be credible in a world that is lacking in mercy.
That means that God’s mercy in our own lives must become a call for us to practice mercy towards others — to be merciful as our heavenly Father is merciful.
As we believe in his mercy, we need to live by that mercy, and we need to make his mercy real in the lives of others.
Jesus revealed God’s mercy in words of instruction, advice, consolation and comfort; in praying for people and forgiving them and bearing insults and indignities with patience.
These are the seven traditional spiritual works of mercy that Jesus calls each of us to practice in our lives.
He also calls us to practice the seven corporal works of mercy, as he did — feeding the hungry and giving drink to the thirsty; sheltering the homeless and clothing the naked; visiting those who are sick and those who are in prison; burying the dead.
As the Catechism reminds us, the Church’s traditional works of mercy are all works of “love for the poor.”
For more than 25 years now, this program has served hundreds of families living in the poorest areas of Los Angeles, providing material goods and spiritual necessities and making the mercy of God present in the world.
As we begin this Year of Mercy, let us pray for one another. May all of us in the Church rediscover the corporal and spiritual works of mercy and find ways to make mercy the way for our lives — being kind and merciful to our brothers and sisters as God is kind and merciful to us.
Mercy alone is a credible answer to the question of our times.
Let us ask our Blessed Mother Mary to help us to proclaim that God’s mercy is real and to show the people of our times that mercy can be found everywhere there is a Christian.