We Are a Sacramental People

tabernacle

We are the Catholic Church. We are men and women who base our lives on faith in Christ as the designer and builder of His Bride, the Church. We are held together by faith, believing that what He said will come to pass. This is our blessed hope. He is coming back to take us with Him to glory.

Mushy, isn’t it? Nevertheless, it is true. In the Acts of the Apostles, the Word of God tells us that two men dressed in white garments stood beside the disciples as Jesus departed from them, being caught up in the clouds. The two witnesses said, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven” (Acts 1:10-11).

While we wait in holy hope for His appearing in the clouds, we believe that with the power and anointing of the Holy Spirit, we have received sacraments to sustain us while we remain on this earth. We are a sacramental people.

The sacraments give life

The Church affirms and the Catechism states that a sacrament is “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” (CCC, 1131). In other words, we have “divine life” dispensed to us by the power of the Holy Spirit through the sacraments.

We acknowledge with our head, heart, and soul that Christ is present in the Eucharist, the “Blessed Sacrament,” the sacrament that is Himself: Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. The Eucharist is Christ, the Person from whom we seek forgiveness and reconciliation. And yet, when we partake of His Body and Blood, we taste the “accidents” (external elements) of unleavened bread and wine. If we do not receive this Blessed Sacrament with total faith that abandons itself from the tethers of this mortal life; if we partake of this most Blessed Sacrament unworthily, that is, not discerning the body, we eat and drink judgment on ourselves. St. Paul writes that we may grow ill and infirm, and die. St. Paul admonishes the Corinthians in just this way (1 Corinthians 11:30).

Likewise, it is Christ who baptizes us through the hands of the minister of baptism. It is Christ who bestows the infinite power of the Holy Spirit at our Confirmation. We believe Christ Himself stands before the Bride and Groom and witnesses their joining together in Matrimony, before others and before God. We believe the Sacrament of Matrimony imitates the relationship between Christ and His Church (Ephesians 5:31-32). We see Christ at work in the Anointing of the Sick. We bear witness with the Holy Spirit that the Chrism of Anointing sets one apart for the work of the Church in the Sacrament of Holy Orders.

Sacraments and living in the real world

As a sacramental people, we are fully aware of the necessity to pray daily for our bishops, priests, and deacons. We understand that the enemy’s tactics are to strike first at the leaders, the shepherds, so the sheep are confused and scattered, lost and alone. We believe the teachings of the Church, the traditions of the Fathers, the teaching of the Magisterium, are instrumental in saving the lost. We strive to walk the Way of Christ, following His example by searching out those in need and guiding them in God’s providence. His love for the human person becomes our love as well. For this reason, we stand with the poor, homeless, weak and marginalized, pleading for the lives of the unborn, as well as the born, believing God has a purpose for every person, and believing each one has the right to experience God’s plan.

As Catholics, as sacramental people, we should not be alarmed by hatred, belittling, and shaming that may confront us. As Jesus was shamed before the people, so those who follow Him will likewise be shamed. After two thousand years, we are still followers of Him who loves us. We still walk His walk.

The narrow gate

Jesus tells us to “enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:13-14). The parallel passage in St. Luke, Jesus is attributed with saying we are to, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate.…” He explains that many will attempt to enter, “but will not be strong enough” (Luke 13:24). It is an arduous journey at times. We may falter and fall, trip and fail, stay home and stay in, rather than take the risk of castigation by others.

Our world is not Left or Right. It is not the politics of the moment. It is not the angry group or even the angry person demanding something we may be unable to give, accusing us of sophistry when we are unable to express our faith and beliefs. “If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem,” I’ve been told. More than once, not remembering what the problem was in which I played some part.

Jesus spoke of the “broad road” that leads to destruction. And He spoke of the “constricted road” that leads to life. He invites us to enter the constricted road. He gave us the sacraments, to make the way manageable. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.

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