UNDERSTANDING YOUR FAITH: THE SACRAMENTS
By Vic Scaravilli
The period of Lent and Easter is the time of sacraments. During this time, there are more sacraments administered in the Church than the rest of the year. Out of the seven sacraments, the four that are encountered during this time are Baptism, Reconciliation, Confirmation, and the Eucharist. Marriage, Holy Orders, and Anointing of the Sick are the others that are celebrated throughout the year.
God has always worked through people in visible ways to demonstrate His love and mercy. When Jesus was on earth, he used visible signs to demonstrate Godís love in ways we could understand. By using such signs as bread and wine, water, oils, and mud and spittle, Jesus gave us a visible way to signify the internal process that was taking place in a personís soul.
Whenever Jesus performed outward signs that changed a person from within it was accomplished by grace. Grace is the free and underserved help God gives us that allows us to be able to act in ways that are pleasing to God. It is the force within us that allows actions that cause us to do Godís will.
All of the sacraments are based on some aspect of Jesusí teaching and ministry while he was here on earth. It was through Jesus that the graces were given to the people in visible forms. When Jesus said that no one can enter the Kingdom of God unless he is born again of water and the Spirit, and you must eat my flesh and drink my blood or you will have no life in you, he gave us visible ways through we would sense that He was at work within us giving his Spirit.
The sacraments are Jesus continuing his ministry among his people after His Resurrection and Ascension. Jesus promised that he would never abandon us and this is one way he fulfills this pledge to continue to be with us.
A sacrament is a visible and tangible sign through which God approaches us, enters into our lives, and draws us to himself through his grace. Given this definition, the greatest sacramental expression of Godís love for us is Christ himself or the first and original sacrament. Through Jesus come all of the others we have today in his Church.
In simple terms, a sacrament is an outward sign, instituted by Christ, that gives grace.
The sacraments are efficacious, that is they have the power adequate for the intended purpose, signs instituted and given to the Church by Christ who himself is the one acting in order to give the grace that each sacrament signifies. They all give sanctifying grace. Sanctifying grace is a free gift of God that allows us to become his children, share in the divine nature, and to inherit eternal life by allowing the Holy Spirit to live within us. And something very reassuring is that the sacraments, as long as we accept them worthily, always give us grace because Christ works through them! We are absolutely sure that God is at work nourishing, forgiving, and bringing us closer into his family every time we receive a sacrament. The seven sacraments touch all stages and all of the important moments of the Christian life
By the sacraments we are united to Christ in the deepest and greatest possible way. The seven gifts are not magic but when they are celebrated with two hearts meeting in love, they are powerful because they are truly the actions of Christ who givea grace on our behalf. The sacraments are the instruments that Christ uses to incorporate us into his own body. As Paul says ďIt is no longer I but Christ who lives in me.Ē
All sacraments give us the sanctifying grace that is needed to remain in Godís family. Baptism initiates it, Reconciliation restores it, and the others increase it. Let all of us take advantage of these special gifts that Christ gave us so that we may obtain the graces that he promised and we are guaranteed of obtaining just by saying yes to Him. We can do that every time we attend Mass by receiving the greatest sacrament of his love to us in the Eucharist.