Dec 14, 2015

Opening of the Door of Mercy at the Niigata Cathedral

The extraordinary jubilee year of Mercy has started on 8 December and will conclude on 20 November, 2016. In Niigata Cathedral, beginning of the Jubilee Year was celebrated with Holy Eucharist with number of priests and faithful attended at 11 am on 8 December. Before the Jubilee was announced, diocese had planned a day of Advent recollection for priests on 7 December. Since number of priests who are usually scattered around the diocese were gathering together for the recollection, we decided to organize opening Mass on 8 Dec. so that faithful might feel unity of the Church by being with several priests and bishop for this special occasion. 18 Priests and more than 60 people joined the Mass.

Then on 13 December, Sunday, Mass for opening of the Door of Mercy was celebrated at the Cathedral with more than 120 people. (Photos) I presided the Mass joined by Fr.Ngaji, SVD, assistant parish priest and Fr.Itagaki from Sendai diocese who was with us as a retreat preacher for the parish advent recollection.

We started the Mass from the Parish Hall and made procession to the main gate of the Cathedral which is designated as the Door of Mercy. There are all together 4 Door of Mercy in the diocese, namely Cathedral, Takada parish, Yamagata parish and Akita parish. You are invited during this jubilee year to make a pilgrimage to one of these Door of Mercy in the diocese, enter to the church through the door, go to confession, attend the Mass, receive communion and pray for the intention of Holy Father with special prayer of the jubilee composed by Holy Father himself in order to receive indulgence.

Mercy is needed in today's world more than before where people are living in darkness created by mistrust among each other. Darkness prevails particularly at the time when world security has been challenged by terror or threat of terrorism which, in many cases, produce invisible accumulation of fear. When we don't trust each other then we begin to judge each other. What a judgemental society we are living today. At home in Japan, we have to look around ourselves. Are we not talking about military threat from our neighboring countries as everyday talk? In the country where the phrase "War on Terror" has become so familiar with daily life,such as so in Japan today, it is quite difficult to talk with reason that the retaliation with force only promotes vicious circle of violence. People overtaken by fear have no ear to listen to such admonition. Feeling of mistrust and intolerance prevails in darkness today.

Meanwhile we have to think about what is the main force pushing this country, Japan, to maneuver through global village in modern days. Economy gain? Military ambition? Where is our moral principle? Country which has so-called Peace Constitution should have the leading voice with moral principle to persuade people to come out from darkness of mistrust to create real peace in this world.

But what is the reality? Are we not choosing the way to go deeper into darkness? We need to feel Mercy of God. We need to feel that God unconditionally encompass all of us, no exception, with his Mercy because he loves all of us. Church is, through this jubilee year, trying to be a beacon of hope shinning in this darkness to invite people to be filled by God's Mercy and love. Here in the Church, everyone should find consolation and joy of forgiveness so that we may be able to console each other and share our joy to escape from the darkness of mistrust. "As the Father loves, so do his children. Just as he is merciful, so we are called to be merciful to each other.(Misericordiae Vultus 9)"

Holy Father also invites all of us to be witness of Mercy of God as he wrote; "the Church’s first truth is the love of Christ. The Church makes herself a servant of this love and mediates it to all people: a love that forgives and expresses itself in the gift of oneself. Consequently, wherever the Church is present, the mercy of the Father must be evident. In our parishes, communities, associations and movements, in a word, wherever there are Christians, everyone should find an oasis of mercy.(Misericordiae Vultus 12)"

So throughout the Jubilee year, we have to try to be witness of Mercy of God through our own words and deeds and also action of our parishes and groups. Then what can we do in this diocese? This is quite a challenge for all of us in this diocese where no particular crisis are happening as such. If we are directly involved in natural disasters or war or refugee crisis or starvation or draught, etc, it would be clear for all of us that what action we should take. But these are, fortunately, not in our case. Then we have to seriously think how we could be witness of Mercy of God or "an oasis of mercy" in this situation? Perhaps, we should better broaden our perspective a bit more. Holy Father wrote as follows; "in this Holy Year, we look forward to the experience of opening our hearts to those living on the outermost fringes of society: fringes which modern society itself creates. How many uncertain and painful situations there are in the world today! (Miseridordiae Vultus 15)" Yes, the today's world is waiting for our action.

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