Holy Year is a reminder to put mercy before judgment, pope says


By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — On a cloudy, damp morning, Pope
Francis’ voice echoed in the atrium of St. Peter’s Basilica: “Open the
gates of justice.” With five strong thrusts, the pope pushed open the Holy
Door, a symbol of God’s justice, which he said will always be exercised “in
the light of his mercy.”

The rite of the opening of the Holy Door was preceded by a
Mass with 70,000 pilgrims packed in St. Peter’s Square Dec. 8, the
feast of the Immaculate Conception and the beginning of the extraordinary
Holy Year of Mercy.

As the sun broke through the clouds, heralding the start of
the jubilee year, the pope bowed his head and remained still for several
minutes in silent prayer.

Amid a crowd of dignitaries and pilgrims, a familiar face
was also present at the historic event: retired Pope Benedict XVI, who followed
Pope Francis through the Holy Door into St. Peter’s Basilica.

During his homily, Pope Francis emphasized the “simple,
yet highly symbolic” act of opening the Holy Door, which “highlights
the primacy of grace;” the same grace that made Mary “worthy of
becoming the mother of Christ.”

“The fullness of grace can transform the human heart
and enable it to do something so great as to change the course of human
history,” he said.

The feast of the Immaculate Conception, he continued, serves
as a reminder of the grandeur of God’s love in allowing Mary to “avert the
original sin present in every man and woman who comes into this world.”

“This is the love of God which precedes, anticipates
and saves,” he said. “Were sin the only thing that mattered, we would
be the most desperate of creatures. But the promised triumph of Christ’s love
enfolds everything in the Father’s mercy.”

The Year of Mercy, the pope stressed, is a gift of grace
that allows Christians to experience the joy of encountering the transforming
power of grace and rediscovering
God’s infinite mercy toward

“How much wrong we do to God and his grace when we
speak of sins being punished by his judgment before we speak of their being
forgiven by his mercy,” he said.

“We have to put mercy before judgment, and in any event
God’s judgment will always be in the light of his mercy. In passing through the
Holy Door, then, may we feel that we ourselves are part of this mystery of

Fifty years ago, he said, the church celebrated the “opening
of another door,” with the Second Vatican Council urging the church to come
out from self-enclosure and “set out once again with enthusiasm on her
missionary journey.” The council closed Dec. 8, 1965.

Pope Francis, the first pope to be ordained to the
priesthood after the council, said the council documents “testify to a
great advance in faith,” but the council’s importance lies particularly in
calling the Catholic Church to return to the spirit of the early Christians by
undertaking “a journey of encountering people where they live: in their
cities and homes, in their workplaces. Wherever there are people, the church is
called to reach out to them and to bring the joy of the Gospel. After these
decades, we again take up this missionary drive with the same power and

Shortly after the Mass, as thousands of people waited in St.
Peter’s Square for a chance to walk through the Holy Door, Pope Francis led the
midday Angelus prayer.

The feast of the Immaculate Conception has a special
connection to the start of the Year of Mercy, he said, because “it reminds
us that everything in our lives is a gift, everything is mercy.”

Like Mary, the pope continued, Christians are called to
“become bearers of Christ” and to “let ourselves be embraced by
the mercy of God who waits for us and forgives everything. Nothing is sweeter
than his mercy. Let us allow ourselves to be caressed by God. The Lord is so
good and he forgives everything.”

– – –

Copyright © 2015 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Original Article