ColumnsNaming Grace

Opening the door of faith

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Torn and faded, the decal for the Year of Jubilee in 2000, Jesus Christ, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, pressed onto our front screen door, continues to proclaim to all who enter that Christ dwells in our home—our domestic church. Though the decal declares faith, only our actions testify to its reality.

This Sunday’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles recounts how Paul and Barnabas, “had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles” (Acts 14:27) by laying down their lives for the Gospel and for one another. As parents/grandparents, we open the door of faith to our children, grandchildren, neighbors and friends by the way we follow Jesus’ commandment, day in and day out: “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another” (John 13:34).

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Pope Francis wrote in the recently published document, “Amoris Laetitia” (The Joy of Love): “The spirituality of family love is made up of thousands of small but real gestures. In that variety of gifts and encounters which deepen communion, God has his dwelling place.” Thousands of gestures name grace—Christ’s presence—in the domestic church: a smile, a hug after a hard day at work, a listening ear instead of surfing Facebook, reading a book to your child instead of watching your favorite program, serving dinner to the family and to a downtrodden neighbor, praying together at bedtime … thousands of loving gestures opening the door of faith.

Yet, if you’re like me, loving one another is often most difficult with those who you bump elbows with daily. How irritated I get with the cupboard door left open, half-full glass of milk forgotten on the counter, toothpaste dried on the sink, unworn clothes tossed into the laundry pile … and the list goes on. How easily my ego is bruised and my spirit fills with anger, impatience and self-pity. When tired and lacking in prayer—gratitude and love—how quickly the Pedersens deteriorate into the Bickersons.

Only when we consciously invite God to dwell in our hearts can our homes become what God intended: a place of deep communion, a mutual sharing of love, a source of joy. During the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis encourages each of us to walk through a Door of Mercy (Cathedral of St. Raphael for the Archdiocese of Dubuque) as “a way to experience the love of God who consoles, pardons, and instills hope.” As we receive but a drop of God’s mercy, how much more easily we can shower others with gestures of love, forgiveness, patience, tenderness and care—all the grace of God.

Our daughter and spouse recently had their fourth child, John Francis Leo. Little Johnny was born into a wild, crazy and often messy household. Johnny sleeps in his parents’ bedroom, as there is little extra elbowroom in the house. But when they open the door, one is greeted by happy, playful children, blessings and love. The joy in their home is palpable, for they love one another.

Soon we will be replacing our battered front door and the decal along with it, but I pray in this new Jubilee Year of Mercy, our home will continue to serve as a door of faith for our children, grandchildren, friends and strangers. May we welcome others as they enter into our homes through a door of mercy. May they recognize Jesus as we strive to love one another—yesterday, today and tomorrow. Now, that’s good news.