In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis has called upon the Church to be a witness of God’s mercy to the world. Mercy is kindness that isn’t deserved. It’s forgiveness unearned. That’s what God’s love is all about. While on the cross, Jesus asked the Father to “forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Lk 23:34) If you read the Gospels, this kind of mercy is rampant in Jesus’ personal encounters. Jesus recklessly, extravagantly lavished mercy on people who everybody else had either hated or just written off.
Across the world, parishes have been participating in the dedication of Mercy Doors decorated with symbols of God’s invitation of love to all people. It is a Jubilee tradition to cross thresholds and to return home (Leviticus 25). God’s mercy invites all who have been away—physically and spiritually—from God to come home again and experience the forgiveness and reconciliation of Christ. Our churches are meant to be the homes that children of God can return to, to be welcomed, loved and accepted. They are meant to be a threshold that people who have felt estranged from a sense of community to find the embrace of God.
Jesus is the door of mercy—it is through his unconditional love that we are asked to come home. “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things,nor future things, nor powers,nor height, nor depth,nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8: 36) Nothing can separate anyone from God’s love—except for our own choice.
What could make someone choose to be away from God or the Church? For some, it’s the belief that they are not worthy to be loved—the most isolating, damaging lie of all. For others it’s the experience of hurt or rejection that has been unleashed on them from the people who are supposed to be representing God. For some, it’s simply a habit—a comfortable or busy life can easily facilitate forgetfulness of our need for God.
Whatever has kept a person from embracing a relationship with God and the Church, it’s our job to be a sign of the mercy that we have all received, to walk with them through threshold that we ourselves have passed through and to help them find the same unearned healing and wholeness (not judgment and derision) that we have been offered.
This Year of Mercy, think of someone who is in need of an invitation to Christ. How can you be a mercy door for them? How can you recklessly, extravagantly lavish mercy on someone who needs it? Pray about it and do it.