* * *
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
With this reflection we have arrived at the threshold of the Jubilee, it is close. Before us is the door, but not only the Holy Door, the other – the great door of God’s Mercy, and it is a beautiful door! – which receives our repentance, offering the grace of His forgiveness. The door is generously open; a bit of courage is needed on our part to cross the threshold. Each one of us has within himself things that burden him. All of us. We are all sinners! Let us take advantage of this moment that is coming and cross the threshold of this mercy of God, who never tires of forgiving, never tires of waiting for us! He looks at us, He is always beside us. Courage! Let us go in through this door!
From the Synod of Bishops, which we held in the course of the month of October, all families and the entire Church received great encouragement to meet one another on the threshold of this open door. The Church was encouraged to open her doors, to go out with the Lord to encounter sons and daughters on the way, sometimes uncertain, sometimes lost, in these difficult times. Christian families in particular were encouraged to open the door to the Lord who waits to come in, bringing His blessing and His friendship. And if the door of God’s mercy is always open, the doors of our churches, of our communities, of our parishes, of our institutions, of our dioceses, must also be open, so that we can all go out to bring God’s mercy. The Jubilee signifies the great door of God’s mercy but also the small doors of our churches open to let the Lord come in – or many times to let the Lord go out – prisoner of our structures, of our egoism and of so many things.
The Lord never forces the door: He even asks permission to come in. The Book of Revelation says: ”Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (3:20). But let us imagine the Lord who knocks on the door of our heart! And, in the last great vision of this Book of Revelation, the City of God is prophesied thus: “its gates shall never be shut by day,” which means forever because “there shall be no night there” (21:25). There are places in the world where the doors are not locked, they still exist; but there are so many where armour-plated doors have become normal. We must not yield to the idea of having to apply this system to our whole life, to the life of the family, of the city, of the society, and even less so to the life of the Church. It would be terrible! An inhospitable Church, just as a family shut-in on itself, mortifies the Gospel and hardens the world. No armour-plated doors in the Church, none! Everything open!
The symbolic management of the “doors” – of the thresholds, of the passages, of the borders – has become crucial. A door must protect, certainly, but not push away. The door must not be forced, on the contrary, permission must be asked, because hospitality shines in the freedom of a welcome, and it is darkened in the arrogance of invasion. A door is often opened to see if someone is outside who is waiting, and perhaps does not have the courage -- perhaps not even the courage -- to knock. How many people have lost confidence, do not have the courage to knock on the door of our Christian heart, on the doors of our churches ... And they are there, they do not have the courage, we have taken away their confidence: please, let this not happen any more. The door says many things about a house, and also about the Church. The management of the door requires careful discernment and, at the same time, it must inspire great confidence. I would like to say a word of gratitude to all custodians of doors: of our condominiums, of civic institutions, of the churches themselves. Often the prudence and the kindness of the porter are capable of offering an image of humanity and welcome to the whole house, already from the entrance. We must learn from these men and women, who are custodians of places of encounter and welcome of the city of man! To all of you custodians of so many doors, be it doors of habitations, be it doors of churches, thank you so much! But always with a smile, always showing the hospitality of that house, of that church, thus the people feel happy and welcome in that place.
In truth, we know well that we ourselves are the custodians and servants of God’s Door, and how is God’s Door called? Jesus! He illumines us on all the doors of life, including those of our birth and of our death. He himself affirmed it: “I am the door; if any one enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:9). Jesus is the door that makes us go in and out. Because God’s sheepfold is a shelter, it is not a prison! The House of God is a shelter, it is not a prison, and the door is called Jesus! And if the door is closed, we say: “Lord, open the door!” Jesus is the door and He makes us come in and go out. They are thieves who seek to avoid the door. It is curious, thieves always seek to enter another way, by the window, by the roof, but they avoid the door, because they have evil intentions, and they sneak into the sheepfold to deceive the sheep and to take advantage of them. We must pass through the door and listen to Jesus’ voice: if we hear His tone of voice, we are safe; we are saved. We can enter without fear and go out without danger. In this very beautiful discourse of Jesus, there is also talk of the guardian, who has the task to open to the Good Shepherd (cf. John 10:2). If the guardian hears the voice of the Shepherd, then he opens and has all the sheep enter that the Shepherd brings, all, including those lost in the woods, which the Good Shepherd went to bring back. The sheep are not chosen by the guardian, they are not chosen by the parish secretary or the parish’s secretariat; the sheep are all invited, they are chosen by the Good Shepherd. The guardian also obeys the voice of the Shepherd. See, we can well say that we must be like that guardian. The Church is the doorkeeper of the Lord’s House; she is not the proprietor of the Lord’s House.
The Holy Family of Nazareth knows well what it means to have an open or closed door, for one expecting a child, for one in need of shelter, for one who must escape from danger. May Christian families make the threshold of their home a small great sign of the Word of God’s Mercy and His welcome. It is in fact thus that the Church must be recognized, in every corner of the earth: as the custodian of a God that knocks, as the welcome of a God that does not close the door in your face, with the excuse that you are not of the house. We approach the Jubilee with this spirit: There will be the Holy Door, but it will be the door of God’s great mercy! May it also be the door of our heart for us all to receive God’s forgiveness and for us in turn to forgive, welcoming all those that knock on our door.
* * *
Observed day-after-tomorrow will be the World Day of Children’s Rights. It is a duty of everyone to protect children and to put their good before any other criteria, so that they are no longer subjected to forms of slavery and mistreatment and also forms of exploitation. I hope that the International Community will carefully look after the life conditions of children, especially where they are exposed to recruitment by armed groups; and that it may also help families and guarantee every boy and girl the right to school and education.
* * *
On November 21, then, the Church recalls the Presentation of Mary Most Holy in the Temple. In this context, we thank the Lord for the gift of the vocation of men and women who, in monasteries and hermitages, have dedicated their lives to God. Let us not be lacking in spiritual and material closeness, so that cloistered communities can carry out their important mission in prayer and in active silence.
* * *
[Summary in English:]
Dear Brothers and Sisters: As the extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy approaches, today we consider the great open door of God’s mercy, symbolized by the Holy Doors which will open in Churches throughout the world. The recent Synod of Bishops on the Family encouraged families in a particular way to enter this door of mercy and to open the doors of their hearts to others. Jesus tells us that he stands knocking at our door, asking that we open it to him (Rev3:20). How important it is for us to be good doorkeepers, capable of opening our doors and making our homes places of encounter and welcome, especially to our brothers and sisters in need! Jesus also tells us that he himself is the door (Jn 10:9) which leads to salvation; if we pass through him, we will find lasting security and freedom. As guardians of that door, we in the Church are called to be welcoming to all who seek to enter the fold of the Good Shepherd. May the doors of our Christian homes be signs and symbols of the door of God’s mercy, a door ever open to all who knock and desire to meet Jesus.
I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, including those from England and the United States of America. My special greeting goes to the El Shaddai prayer fellowship and the orthopaedic surgeons of the Ivins Society. Upon you and your families I invoke the Lord’s blessings of joy and peace. God bless you all!
[Greeting in Italian:]
A cordial welcome goes to Italian-speaking pilgrims.
I am happy to receive the priests of Gubbio, accompanied by their Bishop, Monsignor Ceccobelli.
I greet the Italian Thalidomide Association, the participants in the National Congress organized by the Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi; the Association Love Bridges of Churches and the Saint Mary of the Road Association of Messina.
On this day, in which we celebrate the Dedication of the Basilicas of Saints Peter and Paul, I hope that the visit to the tombs of the Apostles will reinforce in all the joy of the faith.
A special thought goes to young people, the sick and newlyweds. Dear young people and students, in particular of Afragola and of Rome, may the testimony of the Apostles, who left everything to follow Jesus, enkindle in you the desire to love Him with all your strength and to follow Him; dear sick, may the glorious sufferings of Saints Peter and Paul give comfort and hope to your offering; dear newlyweds, may your homes be temples of that Love from whom no one will be able to separate you.
[Translation by ZENIT]