Open Doors of Mercy

“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” – Luke 6:36

The other morning I was juggling a briefcase, books, last minute Christmas gifts, and, of course, my coffee cup as I approached the back door of the church.  Everything in my hands was about to fall to the ground when Henry appeared and held the door open for me.

I fumbled for my keys so I could fob in, apologizing for taking so long.  Henry just stood there calmly, peacefully.

“It’s alright,” he said.  “Don’t rush.”

You might think it strange that Henry’s words stuck with me so, simple as they were.  But Henry is homeless and sleeps at the church, and in the twenty years that I’ve known him, he has said little more to me than “Yes,” or “No,” or “Is Jim here?”

This small connection, Henry’s patient gift of words and an open door, made my week.

There’s a door at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome that is only opened every 25 years.  It is massive and beautiful with bronze panels depicting scenes of God’s mercy.  It is literally bricked up on the inside until, at the beginning of a Jubilee Year, the pope strikes the brick and it is torn down, allowing pilgrims to stream through; a symbol that God’s mercy reaches out to mankind’s frailty.

A Jubilee Year was not scheduled until 2025, but Pope Francis believed that the world was desperately in need of mercy and so, in 2015, he declared an Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, and the door was opened, calling all who follow Jesus to open their hearts and lives in mercy as well.

“This is the time for mercy. It is the favorable time to heal wounds, a time not to be weary of meeting all those who are waiting to see and to touch with their hands the signs of the closeness of God, a time to offer everyone, everyone, the way of forgiveness and reconciliation.” – Pope Francis

What a great new year’s resolution!  To open doors of mercy… as “signs of the closeness of God.”

Small actions, that set the care of others first, have great power to heal in our world.  And we are a world in need of healing.

When the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy was announced, many ideas for living out mercy were suggested.  You can probably generate a long list on your own, but here are some that stood out to me:

  • Resist sarcasm; it is the antithesis of mercy: “”Set, O Lord, a guard over my mouth; keep watch, O Lord, at the door of my lips!” (Psalm 141:3).
  • Pare down possessions: share your things with the needy.
  • Call someone who you know is lonely, even if you understand why they’re lonely. Especially if you do.
  • Learn to say this prayer: “Dear Lord, bless [annoying person’s name] and have mercy on me!”  (This one might just be my favorite!)

What resolution will shape you in 2018?  Remember to Love?  Taming the Tongue?  Opening Doors of Mercy?  Whatever it is, may it be a habit that shapes your heart to love God more and to love more like God.

“Love the Lord your God with all of your HEART…” – Luke 10:27

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