This past weekend we recalled the tragedy that befell our country ten years ago. The images of that fateful day rekindled feelings of sadness and loss. They also urge us to seek a more complete healing within our community and renew our hope for the future.
Getting through difficult times in our lives would be overwhelming if it were not for the presence of God’s grace in our life. His grace is the invisible reality of his free and loving gift by which he offers us a share in His life and makes known his will for our salvation. It is in our response to God’s gift of grace and love that we find hope and consolation.
I’m sure there have been times we’ve all felt the need for God’s grace. That need is most acute when the burdens our our life seem to close-in on us and our hope begins to fade. “Please Lord…give me the grace to get through this struggle and bear my burden.” Our Lord, recognizing this as part of our humanity, instituted the sacraments as a means for us to share more abundantly in the loving gift of his grace.
Jesus gave us the sacraments to strengthen us as His church, enrich our faith, renew our hope and sanctify us as his holy people. The sacraments He instituted for our salvation are an outward sign of the invisible reality of His grace at work in our lives. The sacraments truly are an everlasting source of God’s grace.
So just what are the sacraments and how do they act in our life to bring us grace? The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines the sacraments as “efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is given to us through the work of the Holy Spirit.” When the sacraments are celebrated they reveal and make present the reality of God in our life.
Every sacrament brings with it a particular grace to strengthen us. By understanding the basis of each sacrament we obtain a better understanding of how God reveals himself to us and the grace given to us. The liturgy in which the sacrament is celebrated makes present to us one or more of the great mysteries of our salvation through revelation. The sacraments are so important to our spiritual well-being that the Catechism says “the whole liturgical life of the Church revolves around the Eucharistic sacrifice and the sacraments.”
The importance to us of these grace-giving sacraments deserves a closer look at each of them. In future blogs I’ll offer my reflections on the seven sacraments instituted by Our Lord. They are:
Sacraments of Initiation which bring us into the mystical body of Christ and establishes and strengthens our relationship with God: Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist.
Sacraments of Healing that offer us spiritual healing and repairs our relationship with God and members of our community: Penance and Reconciliation, and Anointing of the Sick; and,
Sacraments at the Service of Communion that build the body of Christ: Matrimony and Holy Orders.
In looking at each of these sacramental gifts of Our Lord I’ll discuss how tangible human elements (such as water, bread, wine, light etc.) are transformed by the encounter with the paschal mystery of Christ to deepen and strengthen our relationship with God. The most wonderful thing about these holy gifts is that they are always available to us. We don’t need to be at a low point in our life to receive the life-giving grace each sacrament brings to us.
Next week, I’ll take a look at Baptism.
May God continue to bless you in all that you do.