If one of your non-Catholic friends were to approach you one day and say to you: “What are the Sacraments all about? Why do you Catholics place such importance on them? After all, I have read the Gospels - and Jesus doesn’t use the word Sacrament anywhere,” how would you respond? What would you say to them?
Perhaps you might have a great answer in your back pocket to “wow” them with—perhaps you might be caught off guard and not know where to start—or perhaps you’d be somewhere in between.
The Sacraments of the Church are central to our Faith—in fact, they are the primary means by which God has chosen to impart grace to us, the members of His Church. In light of this, we have planned to institute a regular monthly column to discuss each of the Sacraments. Each edition will aim to “open-up” some aspect of one of the Sacraments. Throughout the course of this upcoming year, we hope to educate you on each of the Sacraments, as well as foster an even deeper love and appreciation for them.
Our hope is to make it an interactive learning opportunity. So, if you have follow-up questions, please feel free to email them to me at father. firstname.lastname@example.org.
By way of a brief introduction, it might be helpful to review some general background of the Sacraments before we get to specifics. One way to frame our understanding of the Sacraments is through the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles. Saint Luke writes that, In the first book [the Gospel according to Luke] I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach (Acts 1:1).
The key word for us is “began.” In other words, the earthly life of Jesus was, in a way, only the beginning of His saving action in the world. Because Jesus was no longer physically present in the world after His death, Resurrection, and Ascension, He had to institute another way of being present to the world -- after all, He promised to be with [us] always, until the close of the age (Mt. 28:20).
The way in which Jesus chose to be present to the Church was through instituting the Sacraments by the power of the Holy Spirit, whom He sent upon the Church at Pentecost. Through the Church, then, God continues the mission of Jesus. And the primary way that this mission continues is by way of the Sacraments. This is because the Sacraments are the primary mode by which Jesus makes Himself present to the Church that He founded. He is not physically present in the same way that He was nearly 2,000 years ago, but He is just as present to us sacramentally.
Through the Sacraments we receive the same graces that Jesus gave during His earthly life.
There is much more to be said about the Sacraments, but that will come as we begin to look at each of them in more detail. Welcome to Sacraments 101! Class is in session.
May God bless you.
Father Michael Bovino