Last Sunday, the Holy Door was opened in the Basilica of St. John Lateran, Cathedral of Rome, and a Door of Mercy was opened in the Cathedral of every diocese of the world, as well as in shrines and churches indicated by bishops. The Jubilee is in the whole world, not only in Rome. I wanted this sign of the Holy Door to be present in every particular Church, so that the Jubilee of Mercy could become a shared experience by every person. Thus the Holy Year got underway in the whole Church and is celebrated in every diocese as at Rome. Moreover, the first Holy Door was opened in fact in the heart of Africa. And Rome, see, is the visible sign of the universal communion. May this ecclesial communion become ever more intense, so that the Church is a living sign of the Father’s love and mercy in the world.
The date of December 8 was also intended to stress this need, linking — 50 years later — the beginning of the Jubilee with the conclusion of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. In fact, the Council contemplated and presented the Church in the light of the mystery of communion. Spread throughout the world and articulated in so many particular Churches, it is, however, always and only the one Church of Jesus Christ, the one He desired and for which He offered Himself. The “one” Church that lives of the communion itself of God.
This mystery of communion, which renders the Church sign of the Father’s love, grows and matures in our heart, when the Love, which we recognize in the Cross of Christ and in which we immerse ourselves, makes us love as we ourselves are loved by Him. It is a love without end, which has the face of forgiveness and mercy.
However, mercy and forgiveness must not remain beautiful words, but be realized in daily life. To love and to forgive are the concrete and visible signs that faith has transformed our hearts and they enable us to express in ourselves the very life of God — to love and forgive as God loves and forgives. This is a program of life that knows no interruptions or exceptions, but which pushes us to always go beyond without ever tiring, with the certainty of being supported by God’s paternal presence.
This great sign of Christian life is then transformed into many other signs that are characteristics of the Jubilee. I am thinking of all those who will cross one of the Holy Doors, which in this Year are true Doors of Mercy. The Door indicates Jesus Himself who said: “I am the door; if any one enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:9). To cross the Holy Door is the sign of our trust in the Lord Jesus, who did not come to judge, but to save (cf. John 12:47). Be careful that you do not come across someone who is a bit fast or too crafty who tells you that you must pay: no! Salvation cannot be paid for; salvation is not purchased. Jesus is the Door, and Jesus is free! He Himself spoke about those that make one go in as they shouldn’t, and He says simply that they are thieves and bandits. Again, be careful: salvation is free. To cross the Holy Door is the sign of a true conversion of our heart. When we cross that Door it is good to remember that we must also have the door of our heart wide open. I stand before the Holy Door and I ask: “Lord, help me to open wide the door of my heart!” The Holy Year will not be very effective if the door of our heart does not let Christ pass, who pushes us to go to others, to bring Him and his love. Therefore, as the Holy Door remains open, because it is the sign of the welcome that God Himself gives us, so our door also, that of our heart, must remain wide open not to exclude anyone, not even he or she who annoys me: no one.
Confession is also an important sign of the Jubilee. To approach the sacrament with which we are reconciled with God is equivalent to having a direct experience of His mercy. It is to meet the Father who forgives: God forgives everything. God understands us also in our limitations, He also understands us in our contradictions. Not only this, with His love He says to us that precisely when we acknowledge our sins He is still closer and spurs us to look ahead. He says more: that when we acknowledge our sins and ask for forgiveness, there is a celebration in Heaven. Jesus celebrates: this is His mercy: let us not be discouraged. Forward, forward with this!
How many times I’ve heard it said to me: “Father, I am unable to forgive my neighbor, my work companion, the lady next door, my mother-in-law, my sister-in-law.” We have all felt this” “I am unable to forgive.” But how can we ask God to forgive us, if we are unable to forgive? And to forgive is something great, yet it’s not easy to forgive, because our heart is poor and it cannot do so on its own. However, if we open ourselves to receive God’s mercy for us, we in turn become capable of forgiving. I’ve heard it said so many times: “I couldn’t stand that person: I hated her. But one day I approached the Lord and asked him to forgive my sins, and I also forgave that person.” These are everyday things. And we have this possibility close to us.
Therefore, courage! Let us live the Jubilee by beginning with these signs that imply a great force of love. The Lord will accompany us to lead us to experience other important signs for our life. Courage and forward!
I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, including those from England, Ukraine, Indonesia and the United States of America. With prayerful good wishes that the present Jubilee of Mercy will be a moment profound spiritual renewal, I invoke upon all of you joy and peace in our Lord Jesus Christ. God bless you all!
In the joyful atmosphere of vigilant expectation of the Birth of Jesus, Face of the Father’s mercy, I am pleased to greet affectionately the Italian-speaking faithful. I am happy to receive the new priests of the Legionaries of Christ with their relatives; the Community of the Saint Francis Villa; the “Integra” Association and the military men of the Aviation Training Center and of the Commando of the Forces of Defense. I exhort all in these days to intensify their prayer and good works, so that the encounter with the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God will fill hearts with the joy that only He can give.
A special greeting goes to young people, the sick and newlyweds. Let us entrust ourselves to Mary, teacher of faith and model of obedience to the Lord. Dear young people, be able to live Christmas with the same faith with which Mary received the Annunciation of the Archangel Gabriel. Dear sick, ask Her to obtain for you that profound peace that Jesus brought to the world. Dear newlyweds, imitate the example of God’s Mother with prayer and virtues.