The hurts we won't let go of, the sins we don't want to admit or can't stop thinking about, the fear of rejection and abandonment: these close our hearts to God's mercy, not just in giving it, but in receiving it.
The Jubilee of Mercy has begun. In case you're tempted to be a bit jaded by yet another "special event" courtesy of Rome, don't be. This Jubilee is full-scale, the way the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 was. There will be songs, events, mottos, logos, meetings, prayers, and special liturgies. You may wonder what all this hoopla about the Year of Mercy will mean for you and me. That, of course, will depend on the extent to which we embrace it in our own lives. Reflecting on the Holy Doors is a place to begin.
Pope Francis inaugurated the Jubilee on Dec. 8 by opening the Holy Doors of St. Peter's Basilica. That, by the way, is no small feat. Jubilee doors are not simply unlocked with a key; they are unbricked first. Yes, unbricked. At the end of a Holy Year, the doors are sealed up behind a wall until the next Jubilee begins. That's what occurred when Pope St. John Paul II closed the Great Jubilee 2000.
For the Year of Mercy, Holy Doors have been designated not only throughout the city of Rome, but all over the world. Though few will need a team of construction workers to excavate them, the doors have been ritually sealed in preparation. Most, like those at our Cathedral of the Holy Cross, will be opened on Dec. 13.
More than anything else we'll encounter this year, the door is an image of mercy. Doors and walls are functional opposites. A wall is the boundary between what stays in or is kept out. A door is meant to allow movement between "in" and "out." But that movement can only occur when the door is open. A closed door, for all intents and purposes, is just part of a wall. It might as well be bricked up.
The Year of Mercy offers us the chance to discover hidden doors and open them. I imagine that there are doors I never knew existed sealed up behind the walls of my heart and soul. What I don't know is where or how to find them, or exactly why they've remained closed. I also don't know what's waiting behind those doors, or what I've missed by allowing them to remain shut.
Doors, at times, though, need to be closed. When the wind is too strong, or the night too cold, or the fear of what may be on the other side is too much to bear, we look for the safety that comes from being inside. Eventually, though, we discover that what keeps things out also locks us in. The hurts we won't let go of, the sins we don't want to admit or can't stop thinking about, the fear of rejection and abandonment: these close our hearts to God's mercy, not just in giving it, but in receiving it.
With this Jubilee, our Holy Father Francis is challenging each one of us to step over the thresholds of our comfort zones. He is inviting us to take a risk and move beyond what we've allowed into our lives toward what -- and whom -- we've kept out. I begin this Jubilee Year of Mercy with many questions. What new doors will be opened for me? What new doors will I open for others? What doors, perhaps old and forgotten, will I open to God?
Our Lord, after all, never forces his way in. He calls, but waits for us to answer. He leads, but we must choose to follow. He knocks, but we are the ones who must open the door to his grace. God does not ask more than we can give; he gives us more than we ask for. May his Holy Spirit tear down the bricks in our lives. And may this Extraordinary Jubilee Year be the hinge on which our hearts swing open to mercy.
JAYMIE STUART WOLFE IS A WIFE AND MOTHER OF EIGHT CHILDREN, AND A DISCIPLE OF THE SPIRITUALITY OF ST. FRANCIS DE SALES. SHE IS THE AUTHOR OF "ADOPTION: ROOM FOR ONE MORE?", A SPEAKER, MUSICIAN AND SERVES AS A CHILDREN'S EDITOR AT PAULINE BOOKS AND MEDIA. FOLLOW HER ON TWITTER @YOUFEEDTHEM.
Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a wife and mother of eight children, and a disciple of the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales. She is the author of “Adoption: Room for One More?”, a speaker, musician and serves as an Aquisitions Editor at Our Sunday Visitor. Follow her on Twitter @YouFeedThem.