VATICAN CITY — The Church is the “living sign” of God’s love and mercy in the world, Pope Francis said during his Wednesday general audience on Dec. 16. He reflected on the universality of communion, as demonstrated by the global scale of the Jubilee of Mercy.

“May this ecclesial communion become more and more intense, because the Church is in the world as the living sign of the love and mercy of the Father,” the Pope said in his catechesis.

This “mystery of communion,” which is a sign of the “Father’s love” for the Church, “grows and matures in our heart when love, which we recognize in Christ’s cross and in which we immerse ourselves, causes us to love as we ourselves are loved by him.”

“It is an endless love, which has the face of forgiveness and mercy.”

Although the Jubilee of Mercy officially began last week, Pope Francis opened the holy door in the Basilica of St. John Lateran this past Sunday.

During his Wednesday catechesis, the Pope noted how holy doors have been opened in the cathedrals of every diocese worldwide, as well as in individual churches and shrines by the respective bishops, “in order that the Jubilee of Mercy may become a shared experience for every person.”

Thus the holy year becomes a “visible sign of universal communion.”

The start of the jubilee coincided with the 50th anniversary of the close of the Second Vatican Council, which, Pope Francis observed, drew attention to the theme of communion within the Church.

“In effect, the Council contemplated and presented the Church in the light of the mystery of communion,” the Pope said.

He also said forgiveness and mercy are more than just nice words; they must be lived out in daily life.

“Loving and forgiving are concrete and visible signs that the faith has transformed our hearts,” allowing us “to love and forgive as God loves and forgives.”

During the Jubilee of Mercy, Pope Francis said, the holy door is a sign of faith in Jesus, who came to save, not to judge.

The Pope warned against those who suggest that one must pay for salvation: “You do not buy salvation! The door is Jesus, and he is free! Salvation is free! It is a sign of true conversion in our hearts.”

Those who walk through the open holy door should ask the Lord for help in keeping their hearts open, whereby they share the Lord’s love with others, the Pope continued.

“Just as the holy door remains open, in order for it to be the sign of welcome which God himself reserves for us, so, too, may our door always be wide open in order to exclude no one,” including those we find annoying or those we dislike.

Pope Francis stressed the importance of the sacrament of penance as an important sign of the Jubilee of Mercy.

“To receive the sacrament by which we are reconciled with God is to have direct experience of his mercy,” the Pope said. “When we recognize our sins, there is a celebration in heaven!”

He reiterated that we cannot receive God’s forgiveness if we ourselves are unable to forgive.

“Certainly, forgiveness is not easy” and cannot be accomplished on our strength alone. “If, however, we are open to welcoming God’s mercy for us, we, too, will become capable of forgiveness.”

“Therefore, have courage!” he said. “We live the jubilee starting with these signs that involve the great strength of love.”