Second Sunday of Advent, 2015
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
This coming Tuesday, Pope Francis will open the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica, signalling the opening of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. This Jubilee Year will be a time of particular grace for the whole Church. It is a time when the Church, across the world, is called to respond to the Lord’s call to be merciful to all. It will be a time when, through the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the Lord draws us to Himself. It will be a year that will provide a very particular opportunity for us to reach out to those who are estranged from the Church or who, for whatever reason, have not heard the message of the Gospel. This outreach is at the core of our mission. As Pope Francis writes in the Bull of Indiction (the document announcing the Holy Year):
“The Church is commissioned to announce the mercy of God, the beating heart of the Gospel, which in its own way must penetrate the heart and mind of every person.”
This Sunday’s Readings provide us with a most effective introduction to the Jubilee Year of Mercy. The Prophet Baruch calls the people of Jerusalem to conversion. He asks them to change their ways and welcome the guidance that is God’s mercy. “Take off your dress of sorrow and distress, put on the beauty of the glory of God for ever”, he writes and reminds us that the light of God’s glory come with the gifts of mercy and integrity. The light of the glory of God is Christ Jesus: “The Word was the true light that enlightens all men; and was coming into the world.”
The coming of the Word, Jesus Christ, was heralded by John the Baptist about whom St. Luke writes in the Gospel today and whom St. John describes as “a witness, as a witness to speak for the light.”. Like John the Baptist, we are called to point the way to Christ, we must be the witnesses to the Light who is Christ, the One who brings mercy and integrity as a gift for all.
It is not always easy for us to be merciful, especially in a world where violence and hatred seem often to have the upper hand. The image of the Holy Door is a powerful one in this context. The Holy Door of Cathedral or Church must be a reminder to us of the door of the heart and the Gospel calls us to open the doors of our hearts and minds to the gift of mercy. We must be bearers of that mercy to the refugee, to the asylum seeker, to the prisoner and the victim of crime, to the one who is homeless, to the one who may have a roof over their head but seeks the peace and mercy that comes in knowing Christ. The Corporal Works of Mercy (our responses to the physical needs of our brothers and sisters) and the Spiritual Works of Mercy are central themes for this Jubilee Year.
I ask you to join with me in thinking very deeply about your outreach to those around us, that our response to their needs may be truly grounded in the Mercy that we see in Christ Jesus, who died for us simply out of love for us. Pope Francis writes:
“We want to live this Jubilee Year in the light of the Lord’s words: Merciful like the Father. The Evangelist reminds us of the teaching of Jesus who says, ‘Be merciful just as your Father is merciful.’ (Lk. 6:36) It is a programme of life as demanding as it is rich with joy and peace.”
Mercy, then, is not something we might consider dispensing only from time to time – it is a way of life for the Christian. When Mercy does truly become that way of life, it is a most powerful witness to others.
In order for us, as the family of the Diocese, to receive, celebrate and share the gift of Mercy, a number of opportunities will be made available during this coming year. We shall begin with the opening of the Holy Door at the Cathedral on Sunday 13th December, with Mass at 5.00pm. It would be wonderful to see representatives from each parish at that celebration.
I have also named three other Holy Doors across the Diocese, at The Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation, West Grinstead, at Mayfield School and at the Parish of Christ the King, Weybridge. These doors will also be opened on 13th December.
The presence of a Holy Door makes the Cathedral or Church a particular place of Pilgrimage, a focus of Prayer and openness to God’s mercy and the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
This theme of Pilgrimage is one of a number of themes we shall explore during this coming year. The others are the Celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Reflection on the Word of God through Lectio Divina, The Corporal Works of Mercy and the Spiritual Works of Mercy. I shall be writing Pastoral Letters on each of these themes during the course of the year and materials about each theme will be available as the year progresses.
May this Jubilee Year of Mercy be a time when each of us opens the door of our heart to the outpouring of Mercy that we receive through Jesus Christ. Through that experience, may we be better enabled to go out to others and invite them to share in the love we encounter in Christ and may this Jubilee Year be a time of Mercy in a world that is in much need of that great gift.
With every Blessing,
Bishop of Arundel & Brighton
You can see a Podcast of Bishop Richard reading the Pastoral Letter here.
 POPE FRANCIS, Bull of Indiction Misericordiae vultus of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, n. 12. (Hereafter MV)
 Ba. 5:1.
 Jn. 1:9.
 Jn. 1:7.
 MV, n.13.