Home Community Bishop McGrath Opens the Holy Door Celebrating the Year of Mercy

Bishop McGrath Opens the Holy Door Celebrating the Year of Mercy

On December 13, Bishop Patrick J. McGrath opened the Holy Door in the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Joseph to symbolize the start of the Jubilee Year of Mercy in the Diocese.


By Liz Sullivan

Some might look at it as just another door in just another church. To the faithful in the Catholic Church in the Diocese of San Jose it is the door that begins the symbolic path to God.

On December 13, Bishop Patrick J. McGrath opened the Holy Door in the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Joseph to symbolize the start of the Jubilee Year of Mercy in the Diocese.

“We rejoice at the beginning of this Jubilee Year of Mercy,” said Bishop McGrath in his homily, “even as we consider the call to be merciful as your Father is merciful.”

The opening of the Holy Door took place on the Third Sunday of Advent, during the Cathedral’s regularly scheduled 11:30 a.m. Mass.

Since the 14th century, the Church has declared a Jubilee Year every 25 or 50 years, dedicating that year as a special time to encounter God’s blessings, be forgiven of sin, and renew our love for God and one another. Once in a while, the Church will call a special, or extraordinary, Jubilee Year to coincide with a significant event or need in the world. Pope Francis sees a great need in the world today for all people to experience God’s love in real and tangible ways. That is why he has called for an extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy that began on December 8.

“As we have entered through the Holy Door of Mercy to celebrate the mysteries of our redemption,” said the Bishop, “we rejoice that God wishes only that sinners repent and live, subject not to judgment, but to the mercy of God.”

The Year of Mercy lasts until November 20, 2016.
Learn more about the Holy Year of Mercy at www.DSJ.org/mercy.

Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of The Dedication of the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Joseph and the Sealing of the Holy Door of Mercy

He would have never suspected in his wildest dreams what happened that day in his life, the tax collector, Zacchaeus. His curiosity drove him to climb a tree, to see this Jesus who was the talk of Jericho. He would keep his distance, running ahead just far enough to get a good view from the branch of the sycamore.

What a shock that Jesus would call to him, call him by name and announce to all that he would make himself a guest at the house of Zacchaeus. What a shock, how much more startled and disgusted were the crowds who saw what was an obvious lapse of judgment on the part of Jesus.

Stay at the house of Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector! What demon possessed Jesus? What kind of salvation…what kind of God did he represent?
These are good questions for us as we gather for this anniversary celebration of the dedication of this Cathedral Church: Who, indeed, is the God of

Jesus who visits the home of sinners and welcomes all to this place, the house of the people who gather here to worship the Lord.
In Christ, this building is holy because the people of God are holy. No, we are not blameless, we are not without fault, but our inherent holiness comes from the one who created us, called us as his own, and gathers us tonight and so often as a sacred assembly, come to offer our prayers of thanksgiving to the Lord.

“You are God’s building,” Saint Paul wrote to the Church of Corinth. We are built upon the foundation of Christ; we are living stones and temples of the Spirit of the Lord. And we are truly greater than the sum of individual parts, for together we form Christ’s living Body.

Yet we are a people in need of the healing balm of Christ, the strength to overcome our faults and the forgiveness of our sins.

Pope Francis has reminded us on more than one occasion that the Eucharist is not a prize for the good; rather, it is healing and strength for the weak, the weary, the sinner. We are a community of sinners, like Zacchaeus, and still the Lord wants to come and visit where we live: our homes, our cities, our streets, and, yes, this beautiful house of the Church.

It is common for us to call our parish or cathedral church “the House of God.” And while there is some truth in this, it is more fitting, recalling the words of the Lord as recounted by Isaiah, the prophet, that each church, and this church, is the house of the people of God, the house of our prayer.
And this great building is the mother church of all the churches, chapels and oratories of our Diocese. Fitting indeed, since this parish and its church has been, since 1803, the oldest civil parish in the entire state of California. Its 25 years as a cathedral pales in comparison to the 213 years that – somewhere in this vicinity – a church honoring Saint Joseph, husband of Mary and foster father of Jesus, has served the many needs of the community of the Pueblo, then town and now the City of San Jose, the 10th largest in the United States. In its long history, there have been no less than 25 pastors here, 18 bishops in the various dioceses of which San Jose has been a part and part: the Diocese of Durango, Mexico, then the Diocese of Alta and Baja California, of Monterey, eventually the Archdiocese of San Francisco and now, for these nearly 35 years, this local Church of San Jose. And 25 years ago this day, this historic mother church became the de facto mother and head of all of the churches in our valley. At that time, the celebration was called, “A New House for the Church.” How fitting, how true! And it is the only one where I can find my chair!

How often, when we gather here or at other parishes, we sing the words: “Let us build a house where love can dwell, and all can safely live; a place where saints and children tell how hearts learn to forgive. Built of hopes and dreams and visions, rock of faith and vault of grace, here the love of Christ shall end divisions: All are welcome, all are welcome in this place.”

It is Christ who calls, who invites, who welcomes us so that, in his name, we can extend that welcome and his love to one another.

Here, on the corner of South Market and West San Fernando Streets, love is found, for hope is extended. Here, we proclaim the Good News, in actions and in words. Here, we celebrate the sacraments that mark our salvation, our life and our eternal life. Here, Zacchaeus would find a home, for the Lord has chosen to come to us, where we live, in this very home of our faith and our common life.

Here, my friends, you and I – and hundreds of thousands more – are home, around this table. It was the vision of our founding bishop, Bishop Pierre DuMaine, that as we encircle this altar, each has a place, each counts.

As we prepare for the Holy Year of Mercy, beginning on the 8th of December, the Holy Door, here in this Cathedral Church, will stand as an invitation for all to experience in their lives the same mercy, which Jesus extended to Zacchaeus. We seal this door tonight, in preparation for its solemn opening next month.

And so we rejoice, not so much in this fete of architecture and renovation, not in the wood and stone and the soaring ceiling and towers, but in the community of the faithful who make up this parish and of the faithful of our Diocese who can call this church their home.

God is alive, here in this City, here in this House. May God continue to bless the work of this Cathedral Parish, so that it will long be a beacon of mercy and hope to all who are drawn here. From this place, the Lord sends us out to be bearers of the life, the love and the goodness we encounter, telling us in such simple words: “As I have done, so you also must do.”