On the Third Sunday of Advent, known as Gaudete Sunday, as well as the Feast of Our Lady of Guadelupe, Bishop Michael F. Burbidge opened the Jubilee Year of Mercy, called for by Pope Francis, in the Diocese of Raleigh and blessed the Holy Door at Sacred Heart Cathedral.
Third Sunday of Advent - Opening of the Door of Mercy
Sacred Heart Cathedral
December 13, 2015
Transcript of Bishop Burbidge's Homily:
We have all heard family members, neighbors and bosses say: “Always remember my door is wide open.” We appreciate such graciousness. And our gratitude is even greater when we hear the Lord saying the same to us. Over and over again, in so many ways, God tells us that the doors to his infinite mercy are always wide open for us. It is that truth that allows us to heed the words of Saint Paul on this Gaudete Sunday: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice.”
What a beautiful image we saw in Rome on Tuesday, on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, as Pope Francis opened the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy. He stood in prayerful silence at the Doors of Mercy at St. Peter’s. Then, he pushed them wide open and walked through them followed by Pope Benedict XVI, cardinals, bishops, priests, religious and lay faithful.
This symbolic act will occur in our diocese and throughout the world during this Jubilee Year as pilgrims pass through the Doors of Mercy ever aware of what awaits them. Our Readings today tell us exactly what that is: it is an encounter with the Lord our God who is always near ;who is our strength and courage; and the One who tells us to have no anxiety for he never tires of loving and forgiving us.
In our diocese, four Doors of Mercy have been designated: here, at Sacred Heart Cathedral along with the Basilica of Saint Mary in Wilmington, Our Lady of Mercy Church in Little Washington; and Our Lady of Guadalupe in Newton Grove. Just like in Rome, who will walk through those doors: people in all vocations, the young and the aged, the strong and the weak; and those from various backgrounds and cultures. Why? Because only Mary was conceived without sin. We were not. We are in constant need of God’s divine mercy and healing.
In that spirit, I respectfully encourage all of you, dear friends, to experience God’s mercy in the Sacrament of Penance before Christmas. There, we express our contrition and desire to begin anew and then hear the powerful words of absolution in which Christ Himself completely forgives us because no sin (no matter how great or frequent) is ever greater than the love of God.
What better way for us, as recipients of mercy, to express thanks to God than by dedicating ourselves to be instruments of His mercy. One way we do this is by imitating the Lord and forgiving one another. Sure, it is not always easy to forgive those who have hurt or betrayed us. Yet, God would not ask us to do so unless we were capable. With his grace, all things are possible. Forgive as Christ has forgiven you.
In our desire to be instruments of mercy, we ask the same question the crowd asked of John the Baptist in today’s Gospel: “What should we do? The answer given by John was basically this: do the works of mercy. Those works call us to reach out in compassion to others including the hungry, thirsty, sick and those in most need. How grateful I am to see such witness within this parish and throughout our diocese each and every day!
Sometimes in life we close the door to our potential and endless possibilities and see only our weaknesses and failures. Sometimes, it seems as if others close the door on us and fail to love and accept us as we desire. Sometimes, the doors to peace and joy seem closed in a world that reflects such hatred and violence. Yet, in the midst of all his, we do not despair. Why? Because the doors of God’s mercy and love are always wide open; precious gifts in which we experience forgiveness and healing; the grace to live in unity with one another; and a power far greater than any darkness of this world.
Throughout this sacred season and Jubilee Year of Mercy, may we walk through the doors in which we encounter the Lord our God, the One who is always near; who is our strength and courage and who tells us to have no anxiety for he never tires of loving and forgiving us. No wonder Saint Paul says: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice!”