7 sacraments

Today’s chapter (16) begins with the words, “The Eucharist as discussed in the last chapter(15) can be taken as a model of all the other sacramental actions of the Church”. The sacraments are defined as: ‘visible signs of God’s saving love’. Jesus visibly walked among us. In Him, we see God in human flesh. In short, He lived among us, loving us. God’s love was visible for all to see. The definition of a sacrament can be applied to Jesus, as well. A visible signs of God’s saving love.

Many things fall into the category of what a sacrament is. The Church is thought of as the mystical body of Christ. Remember, we, the baptized, and the aspiring to be baptized, are the church. We are its arms, its legs, its heart and soul. Through our eyes, we see the needs of the world. Our nerve endings help us identify the aches and pains of the world. Each Christian around the altar represents Jesus in a unique way. We can bring Christ to the world with our words and our actions. We can bring the love of Christ to a world suffering and in need of love.

All of us know how much we, ourselves, are in need. Each one, of us, has our own personal hell to live with. We are not perfect. We have our flaws, our hurts, and our shames. Humanity is not perfect. Our own misuse of Free Will has crippled us. If you think you are the only one in this room, who is flawed, you are wrong. If you think you do not have flaws, you are wrong. This is humanity. Christ knows this and gives us what we call, the seven sacraments. Every event in life is captured within these seven visible signs.

Each sacrament will be discussed in the weeks to come in the RCIA program. For now, let’s just enumerate them and show their place in the critical situations in our lives:

• Baptism: Birth, entrance into life
• Confirmation: Facing up to the responsibilities of life
• Penance: The terrible human need for forgiveness
• Eucharist: A meal, summing up all of salvation
• Anointing: Facing the inherent weakness of the human body.
• Marriage: Forming the essential building block of society.
• Holy Orders: The need for a center of unity in the community.

These sacraments, these visible signs have one final purpose. Each sacrament provides us certainty. We can be sure. Every husband and wife, every parent or child, every person from time to time needs an external sign of love. Maybe a touch, a glance, a smile is all that we need. But we do need that external sign of love. If there were never something like this between us – we could legitimately wonder if there is any love at all. We are human beings, and as such, we need assurances.

We might say, “I don’t need the sacrament of Penance. I can go under the canopy of the sky and tell God that I am sorry.” Yes, you can. And if you really meant it with your heart and soul, God will forgive you. As you walk back inside, thoughts might flood in on you. Did He hear me? Was He listening? Was I devout enough? Am I kidding myself? Oh Geez, what if they aren’t forgiven? You really don’t have any assurance that anything was accomplished just then. Where do these assurances come from?

Earlier, we said that, “We are the Church. We bring Christ to the world.” The assurances come from the Church, the people of God. We bring Christ to the world … and to each other. You will hear in the discussion on Holy Orders that a priest, sometimes, is the only one present with the sick or the dying. In times like those, the priest represents the community, the Church. The mass is one of the few times during each day that the community, the Church, comes together in the church building.

Examples of the community, in relation to the Sacraments:

Baptism: The people in the church welcome the new member.
Confirmation: Those present add their own confirmation to the Spirit
Penance: Sinner is welcomed back by the community.
Eucharist: People come together to receive Jesus in their hearts.
Anointing: Family and friends representing the grieving community.
Marriage: Friends gather in joy to see a new little church begin.
Holy Orders: The people present welcome one sent to proclaim the Word to them.

Well, tonight we have discussed Visible, Signs, Christ, and Community. Grace, what is Grace? Do not think in terms of “IT”. It is very common to do just that. What is IT? Do I have IT? Can I get more of IT? We treat grace like ice cream. Grace is something to be had, to be increased, to be happy with. Tonight, and the rest of the meetings that we have here, whenever you hear the word “GRACE”, immediately think of “LOVE”. That one small mental flip, modifies and clarifies so much of our attitude towards God, Christ, Church, Community and our own condition. We say God is Love. If that is true, then the relationship we have with our God is one of love. Christ comes to us in the Eucharist, and we are filled with His love, the people present in the church receiving him are filled with love. The community is a faith-filled community, a loving community. The Church is the mystical Body of Christ, because it is sharing love with each other and with all who it comes in contact. We treat all that we meet with love, and in so doing, we bring Jesus to them. We, the community, can help make Jesus visible to a world by the loving actions He fills us with.

Each of us believes, because we have seen the effects of belief in the lives around us. We, in turn, will inspire others to belief in the same way. We are, each of us, links in a great chain of believers. That chain stretches from the apostles down through the ages, with all the saints and people who have lived caring lives, to us here and now. Each Christian around the altar represents Jesus in a unique way. We are unique because each of us has experiences, and combinations of experiences, that are unique only to us. We represent Jesus in a unique way. Don’t ever reject yourself. Jesus has not. His needs for you are unique. It may take you a very long time to figure out what it is that He needs from you, but at some point in your life, you will know. Each of us has a unique reason for being around the altar of Christ. Each of us has a reason for being!

Back to RCIA: Index