Homily for the Closing of the Year of Mercy
Closing the Jubilee of Mercy
St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica
November 13th, 2016
“By your endurance you will gain your souls.”
These closing words from today’s gospel express in a short phrase, the lesson I suggest should be retained on this 33rd Sunday of ordinary time. It is also an appropriate point to make on the day we close the Jubilee Year of Mercy’s Holy Doors in our Archdiocese.
The lesson on endurance is to remind us that grace and the mercy of God is given to us precisely to make us strong, to encourage us and sustain us on our journey of faith. Endurance does not mean to simply put up with life’s difficulties; it means to be strengthened for the challenge of daily living as a disciple of Christ, which transforms difficulties into opportunities.
The gospel text for today is full of language and images which suggest hard times and symbolically represents what we might call the end of the world.
This is particularly evident when Jesus speaks of wars and insurrections; of nations rising against nations; earthquakes, famine and plagues.
Isn’t this the stuff we hear almost every night on breaking news? And doesn’t such news bring with it reactions of worry, concern and sometimes, fear and insecurity?
These were the same concerns that the first disciples of Jesus were experiencing in their own time when they turned to Jesus for advice – and what Jesus offered them, is offered to us in similar difficult situations to help live our lives, here and now!
The first thing that I appreciate in Jesus’ words is his realism and his desire to encourage, where he says not to put too much trust and confidence in things that appear strong and stable, such as the temple; at first, this may shock, but it’s real! To trust such institutions often leads to disappointment – because what we take for granted or assume to always be there and dependable, in fact changes – we see this every day. We have seen this in our Church; in government; in our social networks.
The second piece of advice Jesus offers is a warning to not let ourselves be led astray – Jesus says don’t follow the crowd and don’t let fear take your freedom away. Of course, there are difficult times in life and with them, there is always a cost. Jesus is aware of these things and refers to some of them when he talks about persecution or oppression. Isn’t this what many of us experience today – when we are ridiculed for our faith; when we are ignored or put aside for what we believe? Some Christians in some countries have been arrested and others killed for their faith. And Jesus says, this is the opportunity to testify!
Well, how do I feel about that? What about you?
I said earlier that today we celebrate the 33rd Sunday of ordinary time, but there is nothing ordinary about following Jesus – it’s a demanding task and an extraordinary challenge. The question that I’m left with is: Do we have what it takes to face the challenge?
Whatever our answer may be, to hear Jesus offer us his encouragement, to hear him say make up your minds, I will give you what you need; I will provide the words and the wisdom – trust me! This gives us the grace which produces endurance! Jesus who is our companion for the journey, through his mercy and acceptance, makes it possible to overcome our worst fears, and he reminds us that even if we are falling apart, and it looks like our world is coming to an end – Jesus says: it isn’t and it won’t.
The prophet Malachi says it beautifully when he writes: “But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings” (4:2). The sun will rise again tomorrow, no matter what today feels like. This is the message of hope, which the Jubilee Year of Mercy wanted to provide to all people, and I think it did for many. Thank God.
But there are still so many people in the Church and outside it who have lost hope; people who are afraid and who need to be reassured! And so the need for the gospel and its joy continues. Central to the message of Jesus, is the hope and new life and mercy of God. This is what this past year was intended to highlight. With God’s love; with the acceptance, forgiveness and care of Christ, all of us can experience the joy of the gospel – no one is refused by Jesus Christ – and that’s why Jesus is the door to the heart of God. I wish more people were open to this
But for all of us, who are here, let us receive this message of hope and reassurance! Today, we close the Holy Door to our Cathedral which brings the Jubilee Year of Mercy to an end in our local Church. But Jesus, who is the real door to the mercy of God, remains always open! Christ is always welcoming, non-judgmental and accepting. What an amazing grace this is! And this is the grace that allows us to endure, so that we may gain our souls!
Archbishop of Halifax-Yarmouth