Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Entering the door of mercy through a sacrament

By ARCHBISHOP WILTON D. GREGORY, Commentary | Published January 7, 2016  | En Español

One of the more popular themes in contemporary photographic art is door images in posters of Dublin, San Francisco, New Orleans, Jerusalem and many other locations—even “the doors” of Atlanta. The posters capture numerous pictures of doors in these famous places that manage to embody the culture and history of each city. Some doors can be quite ornate and well known, while others can be simple and practical, or obviously fortified and dependable.

The Catholic Church throughout the world is now celebrating the opening of doors of mercy—doors that Pope Francis declares must always be open for sinners, disciples and those of us who are hopeful in seeking the Lord.

All doors perform two distinct functions. They keep people out, and they allow people entry. Pope Francis has insisted that the doors of the Church must always be open to admit people—sinful people, perplexed people, poor people, marginalized people. The doors of the Church are to be kept wide open for easy admission into the family of believers.

Doors can also protect those residing within a house. Doors can keep out those who might wish to harm those within a home, or to protect the treasures kept within a home, or to make those within a home feel secure. Both functions are clearly important, but for the Church, the doors of the Father’s mercy are always to remain open and welcoming.

Who or what constitutes the real treasures of the Church that must be safeguarded by secure doors? The genuine treasures of the Church must always be the poor, the unnoticed, and the marginalized. The much-beloved St. Lawrence the Deacon reminded us of that truth more than 18 centuries ago when he chided the Roman authorities by bringing them an assembly of the poor in response to their demand that Lawrence bring them the Church’s treasure.

While the other possessions of the Church are to be safeguarded, they are never to be more valued than those who are poor.

The Year of Mercy is an invitation for all of us to seek and to recognize the presence of the Lord’s mercy in our lives. It is a yearlong invitation to reexamine the place and importance of the Sacrament of Reconciliation—the liturgical setting for requesting Jesus’ merciful forgiveness of our sins and weaknesses. It is also a time for us to look deeply into our own generosity in extending mercy toward others. Are our lives open doors that welcome others by the way that we care for them, respect them, and advocate for the disenfranchised? The Year of Mercy recommends an opportunity for us to look at how God has been merciful to us and then to use that discovery as our personal standard of behavior.

I was standing out in front of our Cathedral during one of the Christmas Masses when a gracious lady asked me: “Which one of the Cathedral doors is our particular Holy Door?” I pointed out that it was the specially decorated side door, but perhaps I should have told her, and all of us, that the confessional door was the one that most of us should enter as a part of this Jubilee Year of Mercy. And that door can be found in every one of our parishes.