By Sarah Mac Donald - 14 December, 2015
The world is full of people, crying out for healing in their lives.
They want to meet mercy and hope, not condemnation and scorn, but many of them have not found mercy every time they’ve turned to people who say they have faith, Bishop Donal McKeown said in his homily launching the Year of Mercy in St Eugene’s Cathedral in Derry on Sunday.
The Bishop of Derry said the first Advent call for the Year of Mercy is not that notorious sinners turn back to the Lord but that those who claim to follow Christ root out any hint of the Pharisaism from their lives.
“Only a Church that knows it is made up of forgiven sinners can reflect the mercy of Christ. A proud Church is a barrier to the Gospel. A strong church that has lost the smell of the sheep cannot be a witness to the mystery of divine mercy,” he said in his homily for Gaudete Sunday.
Referring to the unique dimension of the city’s Jubilee Year of Mercy ceremonies, which saw the day’s events begin in the Church of Ireland’s Christ Church on Sunday morning, Bishop McKeown said, “We began our procession to the Holy Door in Christ Church across the road. That is not just a convenient spot from which to walk. It reflects a long standing shared mission between the various Christian Churches in this city.”
As the island of Ireland approaches the year of centenaries in 2016, he appealed that “together we will be giving a shared message that events from the past must be commemorated with mercy and never with arrogance, triumphalism or victimhood”.
Dr McKeown said the Year of Mercy “gives us a great opportunity to remember death and battle with sadness, silence and forgiveness rather than with a vainglorious abuse of the past in the service of subliminal modern battles”.
He said the second Advent message is an invitation to be counter-cultural and to be proud of it.
The Bishop of Derry warned that our culture gives us numerous trite slogans
“The implication is that the only real sins are bad breath, dandruff, BO and not having a good time,” he criticised.
But that beguiling logic leads us to the madness that –
“There is nothing magical about our Cathedral’s Door of Mercy that has been opened today here and in cathedrals around the world. In the Gospel of St John, Jesus says that he is the door to the sheepfold – and elsewhere we are told that he stands at the door and knocks,” he explained.
“This year, we are all invited to come back into the sheepfold of the Good Shepherd, to return even if we have been the stupid sheep that strayed, knowing that the Lord will lift you on his shoulders and say, ‘Rejoice with me, I have found the sheep that was lost.’ Christ is God of the past and of the future.”
“We are never prisoners of who we have been or what has happened to us.”
“The Lord wants to come and clear up the mess of our lives and loves. The problems of the world will not be solved by bombs or merely by worthy international accords. They will be solved when we all come to know the God of Mercy and the Mercy of God, when we come to accept the foolishness of God that is wiser than human wisdom.”
“The question is not ‘will he come?’ but rather ‘will we let him in through the door of our hearts?’”