Dear Brothers and Sisters, dear Friends,
Today marks the conclusion of the Jubilee Year of Mercy in our Diocese as the Holy Door of the Cathedral is solemnly closed. We return thanks to God for his many mercies. We return thanks for the opportunities we have been given, not only to reflect on and to experience God’s loving mercy anew, but also to express it in our relationships with others and especially those who are in most need of his love and mercy.
The closing of the Holy Doors of Mercy across the world does not mean that we can forget about the real challenges this year has set us!
Today prompts us to reflect on how we might keep those doors open in our own lives – how we can go on receiving God’s forging love – how we might continue to extend that mercy and love to our neighbours. In doing so we shall keep alive the vision that Pope Francis has of a Church brimming over with god’s love and mercy. This is the ongoing work of evangelisation – that of ourselves and of the wider community.
As a reminder of this Year, next Sunday each parish and Mass centre will be asked to welcome a Mercy candle which will have been blessed in the cathedral today. This will be given to the family representing your parish at today’s ceremony. Our Schools have already received one. It will be lit throughout advent and Christmas as we contemplate the coming of god among us in order that he might radiate his loving mercy y to the whole world.
A real fruit of this year, has been a rediscovery and a fresh application of the seven works and the seven spiritual acts of mercy: giving food and drink to the hungry and thirsty, clothing the naked, welcoming the stranger, visiting the sick and those in prison, burying the dead; helping the doubtful, sharing faith with others, loving correcting wrongdoers, comforting the afflicted, forgiving others, being patient with those who hurt us, praying for the living and the dead.
These works and acts of mercy are powerfully depicted on banners which have stood in the cathedral for the Jubilee Year. They are now being made available for our parishes. They will be a reminder that this year must have concrete results in our lives and those of our local communities.
Today is the feast of Christ the King. What does this celebration teach us about God’s mercy?
It teaches us that God’s mercy is and always will be startling!
Jesus Christ, God’s own Son, the human face of the Father’s loving mercy, was rejected by the human race. The One whom S Paul calls the image of the unseen God and the firstborn of all creation was scourged by us, spat upon and stripped of his dignity on Calvary.
His response to all of this was startling! He asked the Father to forgive us and he offered us Paradise!
This is something so beautiful and surprising. It is a free gift. It need not have happened. Christ need not have done this. If we forget that, we are in danger of forgetting just how incredible and startling God’s mercy is. Mercy – the action of our God who might have done things differently!
The Parable of mercy – the prodigal Son, teaches us this truth. When the son returns home, penniless and penitent, his father runs out to him and embraces him in his arms. He surprised everyone by the love that he lavishes on his lost son. He didn’t need to do it. It was startling!
Bishop of East Anglia