Nuns, the blind, from those in wheelchairs to those carried by their parents, too young yet to walk – hundreds streamed through the Holy Door of Mercy on its final day. With an aura of celebration, Bishop Sebastian Francis accompanied by Deacon Lazarus Jonathan and parish priest Father Martin Arlando marked the completion of the Jubilee Year of Mercy on 12th November, by sealing the Holy Door of Mercy, in a ceremony that was unique even to the most senior of church-goers.
Following the novena that began at a quarter past five, the congregation was invited to the basement, walking past signs encapsulating the spirit of mercy, reminding us to visit the sick, visit the imprisoned, and comfort the sorrowful. “With eyes fixed on Jesus and His merciful face,” said Bishop Sebastian, “we have journeyed… with the universal church.” In continuing that journey, the congregation’s reprise was an apt “Your mercy endures forever”, before proceeding back to the church. Officials ensured a steady pace as congregants walked through the Holy Door of Mercy in pairs, with Jesus’ steady right hand above all. With final prayer of the chaplet on how with His mercy “in difficult moments we might not despair,” the mass began.
Bishop Sebastian’s homily once again looked upon “the soothing balm of His mercy”. With references to the readings, he emphasized how we must ensure that there is no room for idleness, and that the key word in the Gospel (Luke 21:5-19) was endurance, and how it will win us all our lives. “The sun of righteousness,” he said, “will shine out with healing in its rays.” (Malachi 3:19-20a)
A final recitation of the Jubilee Year prayer rang out with added energy, and a video chronicling the year highlighted 43 major groups of pilgrims from all across the country, Hong Kong and Singapore, and the ‘Garden of Mercy’ in which pledge cards were fastened. Father Martin noted that there were some 8,700 pilgrims, of which some 4,000 engaged in immersion, and noted that the church’s plans were to symbolically “open the next door” with an extension of the church. Both the bishop and the parish priest expressed thanks to the volunteers who facilitated these many visits, accompanied by the applause of all in the congregation.
Upon the completion of mass, the bishop closed the Holy Door of Mercy, literally by taking Jesus’ hand, before kneeling for a final, private prayer. A metal bar was fastened with a lock emblazoned with five crosses, sealed with wax. On the back end of the door, a smaller lock – also sealed with a cross of wax – was fastened, and a braided rope of red and white now hangs across the biblical images portrayed. With incense in the air, the bishop signed the commemorative plaque on the wall opposite the door.
In the close of the Year of Mercy, Bishop Sebastian said that the mission of Catholics was to be disciples of hope, stating that “God never tires of opening the door of His heart.” It was on this note of hope as well as endurance that the congregation went forth, in celebration and in fellowship.
Dr Andrew Filmer
12th November, 2016.