In our continued study of the seven sacraments, the next two fall under the category of the sacraments of healing. Although we are full members of the Church through the sacraments of initiation, we need to be continually healed by the Divine Physician throughout our journey to heaven. Despite being members of the body of Christ, “we are still in our ‘earthly tent,’ subject to suffering, illness, and death. This new life as a child of God can be weakened and even lost by sin” (CCC #1420). Therefore, we have the sacraments of Penance & Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick to provide us spiritual healing from our human condition.READ MORE
The Eucharist is the next Sacrament we will explore as we continue our journey through the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church. It is the third and final sacrament of initiation and the completion of our unification to the family of God and the Mystical Body of Christ.
The Catechism quotes Lumen Gentium (the Dogmatic Constitution of the Church from the Second Vatican Council) saying, the Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life” (CCC #1324). This simple statement is packed with physical and spiritual realities. The Eucharist, or Communion, binds Catholics on earth with one another as we partake in the same Body and Blood of Christ all over the Earth. It unites us to Jesus Christ in His one sacrifice on Calvary. It joins us to the ongoing liturgy that takes place in heaven as all who have gone before us worship at the same heavenly altar. Furthermore, it is the continual font by which God bestows sanctifying grace upon us each time we partake – the nourishment we need to sustain our spiritual life. Imagine the Eucharist at the center of a cross and see it as the central point at which all of the horizontal and vertical relationships in the mystical Body of Christ come together (CCC #1324-1327).READ MORE
This week, as we continue our examination of the seven Sacraments, we will take a closer look at the Sacrament of Confirmation.
The Catechism places Confirmation after Baptism because this Sacrament is the completion of the graces received at Baptism. “For ‘by the sacrament of Confirmation, [the baptized] are more perfectly bound to the Church and are enriched with a special strength of the Holy Spirit. Hence they are, as true witnesses of Christ, more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith by word and deed’” (CCC #1285). So, the graces received at baptism are fortified by the graces received in Confirmation in order to strengthen the faithful in their call to evangelize and defend the Faith.
Confirmation was instituted by Christ Himself and uses physical means to communicate heavenly realities, which, if you recall from last week, are the two defining components of a sacrament. Jesus promised an outpouring of the Holy Spirit many times to His disciples. These promises came to their fulfillment on Pentecost. The Holy Spirit descended upon the upper room and empowered the Apostles to go out and proclaim to the thousands gathered “the mighty works of God” in their own languages. Then those who were converted also received the gifts of the Holy Spirit (CCC #1286). Further, there are three New Testament scriptural references (Acts 8:15-17, Acts 19:5-6, Hebrews 6:2) in which the Apostles apply the laying on of hands – imparting the gifts of the Spirit – after Baptism. This illustrates that the teaching they received from Jesus was to confer the Sacrament of Confirmation following Baptism, in order to complete and fulfill the baptismal graces (CCC #1288). The Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, thereby, go hand in hand.READ MORE
Today we celebrate the Baptism of our Lord, Jesus Christ. I will take this opportunity to begin a six-part series on the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church, beginning with Baptism and combining Marriage and Holy Orders later.
Let’s begin with the technical definition of a sacrament found in the glossary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “an efficacious sign of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us through the work of the Holy Spirit.” Another way of understanding the sacraments is to think of them as methods by which Jesus gifted us an opportunity to participate in the divine life through material and earthly things, and by which we receive actual graces according to the particular sacrament. Because we are physical and spiritual beings, God communicates heavenly realities to us by way of visible creation. “As a being at once body and spirit, man expresses and perceives spiritual realities through physical signs and symbols. As a social being, man needs signs and symbols to communicate with others, through language, gestures, and actions. The same holds true for his relationship with God” (CCC #1146). In simple terms, God comes down to our level in the sacraments and speaks to us in our own human means of communication.READ MORE
Today we celebrate the feast of the Epiphany, which is the day the Magi finally arrived to worship the child, Jesus. During Advent we discussed the Magi and their importance as a representation of Jesus coming to save the entire world and not just a select few. This week, I would like to focus on the actual journey the Magi embarked upon to find Him and how we all imitate that journey as we continually seek out Jesus in our own lives.
The first point to make is that, in order to set out on a journey toward Jesus, we have to make a choice. The Magi first engaged their intellects to examine the evidence available to them, particularly the Nativity Star, and then engaged their wills to set out to see where that evidence would lead them. While it is possible to set out on some journeys with no rhyme nor reason other than seeing where the wind takes you, it cannot be so on a journey to Jesus. The Magi had a goal – an end – and they made a decision to set out and reach that end. We are called to emulate the Magi in this sense. We are called to see the things around us that point us to Jesus, evaluate them, and make a conscious decision to use those things to lead us on a journey with a concrete, ultimate end: heaven.
Now, just because the Magi had an end point to their journey, it does not mean that they had a direct, straight, and uninhibited path to the end. If it was easy and direct, it might be considered a stroll. However, the word journey tends to evoke images of hills, valleys, road construction, detours, losing one’s way, faulty GPS, running out of snacks, and vehicle trouble. Of course, the Magi did not have to suffer through many of the modern inconveniences I mentioned, but they certainly had their fair share of difficulty, as something is always bound to go awry if one travels for any significant length of distance to reach an end. To embark upon a journey implies taking on some risks. Psalm 121 is often referred to as the traveler’s psalm and calls to mind some of this risk, but also reminds us from where our strength comes as we endure what lies between us and our goal. Psalm 121 begins, “I lift my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” Right away, the speaker sees the obstacles right in front of him, the hills, but keeps his eyes on the top, the goal. He does not look at the certain arduousness of the coming journey, beginning at the base of the hills. Rather, he affixes his gaze upon the goal and recognizes from where his strength and help will come, which is God.READ MORE