The Jubilee Year of Mercy began on December 8, 2015, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and the 50th anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council. Pope Francis opened the Holy Door at Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome, while I opened a Holy Door at our local Cathedral of Saint Matthew the Apostle, and a national Holy Door at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Just as the Lord has thrown open the door of his sacred heart, the Church opened these doors of mercy so that anyone who entered could “experience the love of God who consoles, pardons and instills hope” (Misericordiae Vultus, 3, 25).
The Jubilee comes to a close today, the Solemnity of Christ the King, but we should know that the mercy of God endures forever. This Jubilee Year has been rich in meaning and together with Pope Francis, the Church of Washington is filled “with a sense of gratitude and thanksgiving to the Most Holy Trinity for having granted us an extraordinary time of grace” (Id., 5). We go forward now in our pilgrim journey seeking to accompany others and continuing to invite them to drink from the spring of mercy that will never run dry (Id., 25).
When this time of grace began, the Holy Father said opening the Jubilee on the golden anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council offered a reminder to the Church and her members “to be a living sign of the Father’s love in the world” by proclaiming the Gospel and sharing the faith “with greater enthusiasm and conviction,” an effort we call the New Evangelization (Id., 4).
It was also fitting to begin the Jubilee on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception because Mary is the Mother of Mercy. Pope Francis recalled how from the very beginning God had chosen the Blessed Virgin, holy and immaculate, to be the mother of the Redeemer who would save humanity following the sin of Adam and Eve. “When faced with the gravity of sin, God responds with the fullness of mercy,” he explained. “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” (Id., 3).
Mary’s “entire life was patterned after the presence of mercy made flesh,” affirmed the Holy Father (Id., 24). She carried in her womb Jesus, the incarnation of mercy, she held him in her arms at the stable in Bethlehem, she showed maternal concern at Cana, she prayed at the foot of the Cross and she was present, praying with the Apostles in the upper room when they received the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Mary leads us always to Jesus her Son, who is the face of God’s love and mercy, and who brings us mercy through his teaching and healing, his gift of the Eucharist at the Last Supper, his passion and death on the Cross, and his resurrection.
Through the year, we had special occasions to receive the mercy of the Lord and multiple reminders as well of how we are supposed to be people and a Church of mercy. Pope Francis taught the loving kindness and compassion of God through his catechetical talks and witnessed mercy by his Mercy Friday activities of carrying out the corporal works of mercy, which he called others to do in tandem with the spiritual works of mercy.
The Archdiocese offered many opportunities to show mercy in various initiatives and encouraged experiencing and living mercy at its special mercy.adw.org website and a related social media campaign. For the one year anniversary of Pope Francis’ trip to Washington, people were invited to join Catholic Charities’ Walk with Francis 2.0 effort to pray, advocate for and serve others, just as 110,000 people did to mark the papal visit itself last year.
The canonization of Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta during the Jubilee also offered the world an enduring witness of a life marked by Jesus’ love and compassion to the poorest of the poor, which we can emulate by being merciful to those around us.
Now with the closing of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy on this Sunday of Christ the King, we are reminded that we are ambassadors of the Lord’s kingdom and heralds of his love and tender mercy.
While the Holy Doors may symbolically close, there is another door that we should always keep open: the door to our heart so that we can receive the healing forgiveness and life-giving grace of the Lord, the font of mercy. His love should then flow from our hearts to our hands as we continue to be a Church and a people of mercy every day forward.