“The door of mercy” by Fr Dumisani Vilakati

    1. holy-doorsIn an instant, the Bishop will open the door of mercy, announcing with this action the commencement of the Jubilee of Mercy for this great Diocese of Manzini. The opening of the door symbolises the fact that we are all invited to walk through it and be welcomed into the loving hands of the Church. Jesus has promised us that he is the way the truth and the life (John John 14:6). He is the Good Shepherd who leads his sheep into the right gate (John 10:1). The door of the Church represents this fact, being led into the right gate of the New Jerusalem. The words of the Psalmist (122) are probably appropriate at this stage as well: “I rejoiced when I heard them say, let us go to the house of the Lord. Indeed, our feet are now standing at your gates Oh Jerusalem.”

    2. Indeed, the city gates, in the Ancient Near East, were well known to have been places where justice was dispensed and where redemption was acquired. We recall how Ruth was redeemed by Boaz at the gates of the town of Bethlehem. We also know how the prophet Amos criticised the behaviour of the elders in the city gates when they dispensed injustice. The opening of the Holy Door therefore, reminds us that the gate of the Church remains open to dispense divine justice and this divine justice is the mercy of God. Let us prepare ourselves not only to receive this mercy today, but to be resolved that wherever we go, wherever we find ourselves, the mercy of God may radiate to all.

“What is mercy” by Fr Dumisani Vilakati

    1. What Is MercyLuke 6:36 reads, “Be merciful therefore, as your heavenly Father is merciful.” What type of mercy is this? We note first of all that Jesus is speaking to his disciples as can be seen in 6:20. Thus, Jesus having called his own, lifted his eyes towards them (his disciples). There was a need for him to give a blue-print on how his disciples had to live. In some sense this was to be a rule book for all those around him. The command came to the disciples after Jesus had indicated on how their behaviour had to be towards their enemies, “Love your enemies.” And as the Scripture passage proceeds, there is suddenly the invocation of the Father, who in this case is said to be merciful and as such, the disciples of Jesus need to image their Father who is merciful. We are thus in issues of relationships and paternity and as such this mercy should be understood from a familial perspective.

    2. God, as Father, is seen to be loving his children unconditionally, even when they make mistakes and commit the worst of crimes. Indeed, his love endures forever (Cf. Psalm 136:1). This love becomes evident in the loving mercy that every parent has for his/her children. The Jewish sense of this mercy is that which one feels in the depths of his being for another. It also refers to tender mercies which is something that a woman feels in her bowel area when showing concern for her child. God loves us in spite of ourselves and he has committed himself to a relationship with us. In this sense it is be beyond his nature to divorce himself from us. No parent can really disown a child. He can do so only with words, but the fact remains that there remains an unbreakable bond between them. There is something that a child shares deeply with a parent and this can never be undone or wished away. Even if a parent may seem to have given up on the wayward behaviour of the child, nevertheless, in the depths of his or her being, he still harbours some hope that there will be a change, there will be a turnaround, the child will turn from his wayward ways.

    3. The invitation to be merciful as the Father, in fact, finds fuller treatment in the same Gospel of Luke in the story of the Loving and merciful Father (Luke 15:11-31). The son, having demanded his share of the inheritance and gone away and indulging in wayward behaviour, did not lose his son-ship, nor did the Father resign paternity. On the contrary, upon the return of the son, the Father was overcome with great joy and did not ask for much explanations. He proclaimed a feast and welcomed the lost son into the fold. There is no doubt that in this famous parable we are given a glimpse of the mercy of God which only desires what is best for us. We are children of the Father and he is the one who gives us his mercy.

    4. The Holy Father intends that we go back to the roots of our faith and to really consider why Jesus died on the cross. Jesus died for our sins and all sins can be forgiven. The society we live in, even though seemingly sexually permissive, can sometimes be very hard on people who have failed in the sixth commandment. Pope Francis invites us to look at the wider picture. He invites us to be aware that the mercy of God belongs to all people who request it precisely because Jesus has merited for us so great a salvation. Sin does not have the last word. In fact, we Christians need not be pitied because Jesus himself has afforded us his mercy. As has been always mentioned above, we fail to open our hands and receive this mercy. Further to this, the Church herself has not proclaimed this message well or at best has proclaimed the message of mercy in a muffled manner.

Opening the ‘door of mercy’ in the diocese of Manzini

IMG-20151212-WA0003Announcing the celebration of a Jubilee of Mercy, Pope Francis explained he would open the door of mercy at St Peter’s on the feast of the Immaculate Conception (08 December) and invited the dioceses of the rest of the world to do the same the following Sunday (13 December).
Looking back I realise we all chose the day we thought better according to our local situation. The Vicariate of Ingwavuma did it on Sunday 06 December (before Pope Francis did it in Rome), other dioceses chose to “join” Pope Francis and did it on Tuesday 08 December. The Diocese of Manzini… on Friday evening. Pope Francis himself had opened the first door of mercy in November during his visit to Central African Republic.
While probably most of the dioceses chose to do it during a daily Mass, our priests suggested we begin the Jubilee with a vigil of prayer to be started at 8 pm outside the Cathedral and would finish at 6 am. So we did!
Fr Dumisani Vilakati led the very first moment of our gathering explaining briefly and clearly the meaning of a Jubilee in the Bible and of this particular Jubilee of Mercy. We read a passage from the Gospel of Luke and a few paragraphs from Pope Francis’ letter announcing the Jubilee. We then proceeded to the entrance of the Cathedral and the door of mercy was opened. Led by the cross and the book of the Gospels we all went in. We were not just going into the church like we do every day. Going through this “door of mercy” we wanted to welcome this special time of grace being offered to us.
Click HERE to read the rest of the post from the bishop’s blog

“The Jubilee of Mercy” by Fr Dumisani Vilakati

    1. Extraordinary Jubilee of MercyOn the 17th March 2013, Pope Francis pronounced his first speech to the world when he appeared on his first Angelus. On that Sunday, he reflected on the Story of the woman caught in adultery as presented in John 8:1-11. Reflecting on this reading, the Holy Father placed a lot of emphasis on the behaviour of Jesus in relation to the woman. This was after some of the men of Jerusalem had accused the woman of adultery. The elders of Jerusalem had brought the woman to Jesus and informed him that according to the law of Moses she had had to be stoned to death (Lev 20:10). The response of Jesus was astonishing as he neither sided with the accusers nor with the woman on whether she had in fact committed the offence. On the contrary, Jesus focused on the need of the woman in front of him and how she could be saved.

    2. The focus of the Holy Father on that day was on the mercy of Jesus upon the woman. Jesus, rather than appeal to the law in Leviticus, appealed more to the nature of God himself. Notice the words of Jesus as he concludes the discourse: “Did anyone condemn you?” “Neither do I condemn you.” Jesus places himself together with the accusers and does not see himself fit to condemn the woman. The elders of Jerusalem, who were initially intent on putting her to death, could not bring themselves to condemn her.

    3. The Holy Father at this stage underlined the fact that with God there is always mercy as was evident with Jesus’ approach to the accusation against woman. Pope Francis lamented the fact that we Christians are poor in requesting God’s mercy, yet God never fails us. As can be observed from John 8:1-11, the mercy of God reaches our door step even in the most dire of situations. From his appearance at his first Angelus in March 2013, it has been clear that mercy would be at the centre of his papacy. His main concern from the beginning has been to see a Church that is more merciful rather than condemning, especially when we speak of the poorest members of society. This merciful church should be seen in the way it is administered and its programs and more importantly in the penitential activity of the church.

    4. It was therefore not surprising indeed that the Pope would decide to proclaim an extra-ordinary Jubilee of mercy which began on the 8th December 2015. In this way, the Pope was inviting us to look at Jesus as the face of the Father’s mercy. At the same time he invites us to show a merciful face in all our dealings. But what is this mercy?