CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 20 July 2019

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Knock knock—come in!

The Jubilee of Mercy is a symbolic event, which in the current climate of violence in the world has become more relevant than ever.

Officially, the year begins on December 8, when Pope Francis is scheduled to throw open the Holy Door at St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican.

But the pope is forever innovative and plans to preempt this date, opening a Holy Door in Bangui, the capital city of the Central African Republic, during his trip to Africa to promote mercy, reconciliation and dialogue.

He is immediately stressing the universality of the symbolic opening, as well as the decentralisation of Church life away from Rome.

The Holy Door is a symbol of God’s mercy. It welcomes all comers, especially sinners seeking repentance, as it offers the grace of forgiveness.

But it is a threshold that requires some courage to cross.

The symbolism is taken from the image of the holy city as outlined in the Book of Revelations (21:25), “Its gates shall never be shut by day.” This actually means the gates will never be shut, because in the holy city there is no night and no darkness.

Crossing the threshold does not require an invitation—it is open to all, but it is not to be crossed without first asking and the request must not be refused without just cause.

God does not force himself into our hearts, but asks permission to enter. Consequently, the management of doors is an expert task.

The image of the doorkeeper in Hong Kong is a common one, as almost every building has someone to keep an eye on the entrance.

While normally called security and looked down upon, the position is important, as it puts a smile or a frown on the entrance.

It is the doorkeeper who makes the entrance attractive and crossing inside a pleasure. However, a door also provides security.

Pope Francis says, “A door must protect, certainly, but not push away. A door must not be forced, but on the contrary, permission must be asked, because hospitality shines in the freedom of a welcome and is darkened by the arrogance of an invasion.”

But for the doorway to be effective, trust is required. The gospels are peppered with stories of welcome and rebuff, examples of where this relationship between inside and outside has become warped.

The ceremony of Holy Door at St. Peter’s goes back to 1499. It is bricked up for most of its life, so rather than simply opening a door, the Jubilee of Mercy actually begins with knocking down a wall.

This gives the ritual a deeper meaning, as it challenges people to knock down the walls of their heart that keep others out. On a wider scale it is a challenge to nations that fence borders against those who, in reality, do no harm.

But societies build many walls. Government policies can block ethnic groups from advancing within society; fear, prejudice and irrational hatred can create ghettos; snobbery can exclude; racism can isolate; and greed create life-sucking poverty.

The Jubilee of Mercy is a challenge to all individuals and societies to reflect on their exclusive behaviour and policies. It is a call to recognise that all people have a right to a decent life. JiM