Family: The Welcoming Door
Pope Francis spoke with joy and anticipation of the coming Jubilee of Mercy at his audience on November 18, 2015. He exhorted the faithful to approach “the great door of the Mercy of God” with courage. He noted that October’s Synod of Bishops encouraged all families “to meet at the threshold of this open door,” and also to open the door themselves to the Lord “who is waiting to enter, bringing his blessing and his friendship.” He said that all the doors of churches and communities must be open in order to spread God’s mercy to the world.
“The Lord never forces the door open,” noted the Holy Father, “He too asks permission to enter.” He urged people to open the doors and to be hospitable. “No armoured doors in the Church, none! Completely open!” he said. The door is to protect, but not to reject, and it “is frequently opened, in order to see if there is someone waiting outside, perhaps without the courage nor, perhaps, the strength to knock.”
Pope Francis turned his words to porters in particular, noting the welcome that they are capable of extending. “Often a porter’s acumen and courtesy can offer an image of humanity and of welcome to the entire house, right from the entrance.” He thanked them for their smiles and demonstrations of acceptance into the Church, house, or other institution. Pope Francis said that we are all the porters for the “Door of God” whose name is Jesus. “Jesus is the door that lets us go in and out.” Reflecting on the image in John chapter 10, the pope continued to speak of the door and the gatekeeper. “If the gatekeeper hears the Shepherd’s voice, he opens and lets in all of the sheep that the Shepherd brings, all of them, including those lost in the wood, whom the Good Shepherd went to get back.” He noted, “The sheep are not chosen by the gatekeeper, they are not chosen by the parish secretary or parish administrator; the sheep are all called, they are chosen by the Good Shepherd… The Church is the gatekeeper of the house of the Lord, she is not the proprietor of the Lord’s house.”
Gazing at the Holy Family, Pope Francis said, “The Holy Family of Nazareth knows just what an open or closed door means, for those expecting a child, for those who have no shelter, for those who need to escape danger. Christian families make the threshold of their homes a great sign of the Door of the mercy and welcome of God.” This is how the Church will be recognized by all people, as a place of welcome and forgiveness. “May there also be the door of our heart for all to receive God’s forgiveness and to give, in our turn, our forgiveness, welcoming all those who knock at our door.”