As we have recently seen, witnessed, or heard about, our ancient yet always new Catholic Church has just followed Pope Francis and our own Bishop into the sacred aula of another Jubilee Year, this time within the sacred cloud of divine mercy. Beginning with the great Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and extending to the Solemnity of Christ the King in 2016, God’s love for us sinners – the classical definition of Divine Mercy – will be on our minds and within our hearts.
God’s mercy for us is encapsulated in one of the most stunning sentences of Sacred Scripture; specifically, “God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom 5:8) Devotionally, this most profound revelation has from time memorial been expressed in one of our most powerful prayers: “Holy God; holy mighty one; holy immortal one, have mercy on us and on the whole world.”
God’s mercy for us is especially tangible at Christmastime, the annual sacred commemoration of the Incarnation, one of the two key dogmas of Biblical Faith. Nothing that man could do – could do – could render us deserving of so meaningful a gift; the reason for such a grace is, in theologian Karl Barth’s unforgettable theologism: “God; God alone; God himself.”
Symbolically, therefore, the formidable door to the Divine audience allows for an open door – the sacred portal of the ceremony of the open door with which this Jubilee was inaugurated by the Holy Father and our own Bishop. God “lets us in,” as it were, despite our sinful states of soul. Vertically downward, one great theologian has reminded us, descended the Mercy of God – at midnight, when the world in darkness lay.
That darkness, though visited by the light at Bethlehem, remains a formidable obstacle to countless searches for truth and goodness. There are those, for example, for whom the very sense of sin has been dulled. In other words, the very “sense of sin has vanished.” Yet, as Saint Pope John Paul II once put it, when moral conscience is in eclipse, so is any sense of sin. What need have we of a savior, were it not necessary that we – each of us – need saving?
Again, as the Christmas carol pleads: “Fall on your knees…” Merciful Lord, free us from our sins, Lord, God, Savior!”