“Open the gates of justice, we shall enter and give thanks to the Lord. This is the Lord’s gate: let us enter through it and obtain mercy and forgiveness!”
With these words, Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted officially opened the Holy Doors of Mercy at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral, and thus, the Jubilee Year of Mercy for the Diocese of Phoenix.
Dioceses across the world have designated Holy Doors of Mercy as pilgrimage sites for the faithful to pass through, and, accompanied by prayers and the sacraments, to receive a plenary indulgence. Another set of Holy Doors was opened earlier in the day at the Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona. All who pass through the doors during the Year of Mercy will receive the indulgence.
The celebration began with a prayer service at the adjacent Ss. Simon and Jude School, followed by a public procession led by the bishop around the school along Maryland Avenue toward the front of the church. Once at the entrance, Bishop Olmsted blessed and opened the doors.
In his homily for the Mass, cathedral rector Fr. John Lankeit tied the need for mercy in today’s world with the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino.
Noting that Pope Francis released his bull announcing the Year of Mercy a few months after another terrorist attack in Paris, Fr. Lankeit said that “it was clear the Holy Father could see what so much of the world could not — that the only genuine solution to humanity’s brokenness is God’s mercy.”
Referencing the Gospel for the day (Luke 3:10-18), Fr. Lankeit said John the Baptist’s statement that one greater than him was coming contains three key components: that the Savior, Jesus Christ is coming; that He will separate the faithful from the unfaithful; and that this is good news.
“Throughout salvation history, God has allowed His people to suffer the consequences of their collective unfaithfulness in order to shake them up, and wake them up. And he is allowing the same to happen in Europe and North America, in particular, because of these societies’ willful disregard for their relationship with him,” said Fr. Lankeit. “But, because God is merciful, He will not let evil run rampant forever.
“It’s as though God is saying, ‘Now that I have your attention, now that your world has been rocked, I am offering you a chance to return to me,’” he added. “And thus we have the Year of Mercy. A year to be freed from sin — in order to be freed for the mission of spreading and sharing this same mercy.”
Roger Fuelling, a Fourth Degree Knight of Columbus from St. Helen Parish in Glendale, was among the Knights in full regalia participating in the ceremony. It was his first time to participate in an honor guard for a diocesan-wide celebration.
“It was a holy experience, emotionally. It was an honor to be here and celebrate with the diocese and my brother knights,” Fuelling said. “The homily was very moving — it hit home,” he added, “I’ll be doing more confessions.”
Cathedral parishioner Vickie Lacek said she was inspired by the fact that she sat next to people from throughout the diocese, including some who’d traveled more than an hour.
“Everyone felt as one,” she said.
Lacek also added that in this Year of Mercy she’s inspired to reach out to non-practicing Catholics. “It’ll inspire me to invite them,” she said, “like my brothers.”
Fr. Lankeit closed his homily by noting that the Year of Mercy particularly invites the faithful to take advantage of the sacrament of Reconciliation. Through this sacrament, he said, we take responsibility for our sins, and thus experience both the justice and mercy of God. This then encourages to share mercy with others.
“Just as the destructive visible violence in our world is a manifestation of the destructive invisible violence of sin in the human heart, so too will visible peace in the world only come about when we have invited the peace of Jesus Christ … to fill our hearts so that there is no room left there for sin to dwell,” he said. “The ‘genius’ of the Holy Spirit — working through our Holy Father in calling for a Year of Mercy — is the call to invite the peace of the Lord into our hearts first, so he can then use us to spread this peace to others.”