12/15/2015, 00.00
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The Jubilee in Niigata, an "oasis of mercy" in modern Japan

by Tarcisio Isao Kikuchi*
The bishop, Msgr. Tarcisio Isao Kikuchi, opened the Holy Door along with dozens of priests and about 120 faithful. The Holy Year should "push the faithful to stop living in mutual distrust, learning to be sparks of hope for today’s world." In the midst of wars, terrorism and natural disasters, "the Father's mercy is an essential balm".

Niigata (AsiaNews) - The extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy began on December 8 and will conclude on November 20, 2016. In Niigata Cathedral, the beginning of the Jubilee Year was celebrated with Holy Eucharist with number of priests and faithful at  11 am on December 8.

 Before the Jubilee was announced, the diocese had planned a day of Advent recollection for priests on  December 7. Since the vast majority of priests are usually scattered around the diocese were gathered together for the recollection, we decided to organize the opening Mass for the next day so that faithful might feel  the unity of the Church by being with several priests and bishop for this special occasion.

Then on December 13, Sunday, Mass for opening of the Holy Door of Mercy was celebrated at the Cathedral with more than 120 people. I presided at 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 began the liturgy in the Parish Hall and processed to the main gate of the Cathedral in front of the main door which is the designated Holy Door. There are all together four Holy Doors of Mercy in the diocese, namely the Cathedral, Takada parish, Yamagata parish and Akita parish. We are invited during this jubilee year to make a pilgrimage to one of these Holy Doors of Mercy in the diocese, to enter the church through this door, to go to confession, attend 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 an indulgence.

Mercy is needed in today's world more than before. People are living in darkness created by mutual mistrust. Darkness prevails particularly at the time when world security is being challenged by terror or the threat of terrorism which, in many cases, produces an invisible accumulation of fear. When we don't trust each other then we begin to judge each other. What a judgmental society we are living in today.

Here in Japan, we have to sit up and take notice.  Why has the military threat from our neighboring countries has become everyday talk?  In a country where the phrase "War on Terror" has become imbedded in daily life, as is the case in Japan, it is becoming increasingly difficult to reason that retaliation with force only furthers the vicious circle of violence. People overtaken by fear have no time to listen to these warnings. Feeling of mistrust and intolerance prevails in today’s  darkness.

Meanwhile we have to think about what is the main force motivating this country, Japan, to maneuver through the modern global village. Economic gain? Military ambition? Where is our moral fiber? A country which has a so-called Peace Constitution should be a leading moral voice to persuade people to emerge from the darkness of mistrust to create real peace in this world.

But what is the reality? Are we not choosing the path of deeper darkness? We need to feel the 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. Through this Jubilee Year, the Church is, 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 in having escaped 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)"

The Holy Father also invites all of us to be witness of the 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 through the 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 there is no particular crisis as such. If we are directly involved in natural disasters or wars or a 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 our case.

Thus 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 broaden our perspective a bit more.The  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, today's world is waiting for our action.

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