The Power of The Sacraments

From my New American Bible – Catholic Study Edition and The Catechism of The Catholic Church, as well as  EWTN/experts/answers/sacraments and –

Sacrament. From the Latin sacramentum, a word which denoted the oath of loyalty sworn by soldiers to their earthly lord, the emperor. It was applied by Tertullian around 200 AD to the Christian mysteries, by which man adhered to God. It thus acquired, as a technical term, the same implication as the Greek wordmysterion, mystery, which is used to this day for the sacraments in Eastern Christianity.

We say a sacrament is an outward sign, instituted by Jesus, to provide us grace inwardly. Grace is God’s life within us.

Thus, we can say that Christ is a sacrament of His Father. The Church is a mystery, since it is the mystical Christ, Head and members. Vatican II speaks of the Church as the sacrament of Christ. Finally, the seven sacraments are mysteries which unfold in our souls and in our lives the working of Christ and His grace.

Finally, one needs to remember that the New Testament is not a how-to manual of the sacraments and liturgy. Scripture witnesses to them, the early Christians didn’t need more. Baptism is the most frequently spoken of, because it was a necessary part of  evangelization. Once people were baptized the Church’s pastors (bishops, priests and deacons) who received their instructions from the apostles, carried out the sacraments as they had been taught (2 Thes. 2:15). This is what is meant by Tradition, the communication of the apostolic teaching in the preaching, teaching and ritual practices of those who were appointed to lead the Church after the apostles.

On Baptism – Acts 2:38 tells us – “Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of The Holy Spirit.” Furthermore Jesus Himself states in Mark 28:19 – “Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” … As The Catechism of The Catholic Church or CCC explains we receive an indelible mark of the Holy Spirit into our souls when we are baptized and become a member of Jesus’ Church. This is why Baptism is a one time event. It is also the first sacrament and the “door” which gives access to the other sacraments. It consists of immersing the candidate in water or pouring water over his or her head while pronouncing the invocation of the most Holy Trinity: the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. I encourage you to read the CCC Article 1 starting at 1213. Baptism literally means “plunge or “immerse”.

On Confirmation – Acts 8:14-17 goes on – “Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent them Peter and John, who went down and prayed for them, that they might receive the holy spirit, for it had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them and they received the holy Spirit.” The CCC article 2, starting at 1285 explains we are fully initiated or completed and are made soldiers for Christ after receiving Confirmation and this too is a one time event.

On Confession – See Leviticus 19:20-22 and John 20:21-23 as well as The CCC, 553, 1445 and 1446. Only God has the power to forgive sins; however it is clear that Jesus conferred authority to His church leaders through these bible passages that they are to “stand in the gap” for Him to assist in absolving us, His Church, from our sins. We call this “In Persona Christi”. The priest stands in the place of Jesus Himself and has been given authority by Jesus Himself to absolve the Church from our sins. This also ties into the Sacrament of Holy Communion, as the priest stands in persona Christi in the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus. This is why we also call our priests “father” and it is okay to call them father. They have given up everything, including marriage and fathering children for the kingdom of Jesus Christ; hence they are to be reverenced as our spiritual fathers. Frequenting the sacrament of confession and Holy Communion is the most important thing you can do. It helps you and me cooperate with God’s grace in us over time and enables us to receive Holy Communion worthily ( See 1 Corinthians 11:17-34). Frequent Confession and Holy Communion has been instrumental in my faith journey and has helped me listen to God. It has helped me overcome concupiscence. It is important to understand we must persevere in Confession and Holy Communion and never abandon these 2 sacraments. As we progress 2 steps in faith we may fall back a step. Make sure you do not fall back 3 steps or if you do run to Confession and start walking forward again in our faith. As you keep progressing you will fall back. Jesus understood this. That is why He gave us Confession; it is so important in helping us cooperate with God’s grace in us and eventually overcoming mortal sin in our life. I cannot stress this enough. Frequent confession and Holy Communion are paramount to your successful walk in faith. Further teaching in the CCC article 4, starting at 1422.

On Holy Communion – See John 6:53-58, Luke 22:19-20, Acts 2:42 and 1 Corinthians 11:24-27. I mentioned the importance of Holy Communion above and as the CCC Article 3 starting at number 1322 tells us “The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life.”

On Holy Orders – The threefold division of sacred ministers (bishops, priests and deacons)  prefigured in the Old Law (high priest, priests, Levites) is clearly revealed in Scripture. See CCC, 1536. Also, read Acts 6:5-6 and the Bible passages I mention above as Jesus Himself instituted Holy Orders during the Last Supper. Priest is synonymous with sacrifice as the priest gives up his earthly pleasures of life for the Kingdom! We need to pray daily and diligently for our priests as they are men prone to temptation as we are and they are men called to holiness as we are. Only the hands of a priest can perform transubstantiation during the mass. Never forget that our Pope, who is Bishop of Rome and all the other Bishops throughout the world are simply priests following in the footsteps of Jesus. We call Jesus, priest, prophet and KIng among many other titles.

On Matrimony – “A covenant or partnership for life between a man and a woman, which is ordered to the well-being of the spouses and to the procreation and upbringing of children. When validly contracted between two baptized people, marriage is a sacrament (CCC, 1601).

I could write an entire book dedicated to its sacredness and how important this Sacrament is in the eyes of God. We should never take this Sacrament lightly as Jesus calls Himself The Bridegroom ( read Mark 2: 18-22). Let’s also remember that Jesus started His public ministry at the wedding feast in Cana at the request of His Mother (Our Blessed Mother Mary). I could write another book just about this passage starting at the beginning of John, chapter 2. This event speaks volumes on two important themes of our faith. One, how important Matrimony is in God’s eyes. Jesus did not want the married couple to be embarrassed as the wine at this great wedding feast had run out. Not only did He change water to wine, he provided the best wine. Secondly, the servers went to Jesus’ mother to explain the wine had run out. Our Blessed Mother went to Jesus and interceded on the married couples behalf asking He do something. She went back to the servers and told them do whatever He says. This is awesome and makes my heart sing! think about this story. Our Blessed Mother, who was chosen by the Father, for the Son, and the bride of the Holy Spirit, is the most perfect and pure human being God ever made, period! What an example and model of holiness she is to us. As this passage demonstrates she always and only leads us to Jesus! She points to  the WAY! This is why her intercession is powerful and needed.

Roman Catholic Christians believe that marriage was instituted by God in the Hebrew Scriptures.

Gen 1:27-28
God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them, saying: “Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it.”

In the simplicity of his words, the author of Genesis described the institution of human society.

Gen 2:18-24
The Lord God said: “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him.” … So the Lord God cast a deep sleep on the man, and while he was asleep, he took out one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. The Lord God then built up into a woman the rib that he had taken from the man. When he brought her to the man, the man said: “This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; This one shall be called ‘woman,’ for out of ‘her man’ this one has been taken.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body.

In the New Testament, Jesus reestablished the indissolubility and unity of marriage.

Mt 19:3-9
Some Pharisees approached him, and tested him, saying, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?” He said in reply, “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” They said to him, “Then why did Moses command that the man give the woman a bill of divorce and dismiss (her)?” He said to them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery.”

Jesus extolled the sanctity of marriage by his presence at the wedding feast at Cana and the occasion of his first public miracle.

Jn 2:1-11
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding. When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” (And) Jesus said to her, “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings, each holding twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus told them, “Fill the jars with water.” So they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.” So they took it. And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine, without knowing where it came from (although the servers who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now.” Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs in Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him.

Finally, it is Paul who writes of marriage as a true sacrament the sign of the conjugal union of Christ and his Bride, the Church.

Eph 5:21-32
Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is head of his wife just as Christ is head of the church, he himself the savior of the body. As the church is subordinate to Christ, so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. So (also) husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one hates his own flesh but rather nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “For this reason a man shall leave (his) father and (his) mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the church.

The Fathers of the Church, from the evangelist John and Paul attest to the reinstitution and sanctification of matrimony by Christ and its elevation to a mystical signification.

Ignatius (Antioch, d. 110), Letter to Polycarp, MG 5, 724
Tell my sisters to love the Lord and to be satisfied with their husbands in flesh and spirit. In the same way tell my brothers in the name of Jesus Christ to love their wives as the Lord does the Church. If anyone is able to persevere in chastity to the honor of the flesh of the Lord, let him do so in all humility. If he is boastful about it, he is lost; if he should marry, the union should be made with the consent of the bishop, so that marriages may be according to the Lord and not merely out of lust. Let all be done to the glory of God.
Tertullian (Rome, 160 – 220), To His Wife, Bk. 2:7, ML 1, 1299
If, then, a marriage of this kind (faithful with unfaithful) is approved by God, why will it not also be a successful marriage, in spite of difficulties and anxieties and obstacles and defilements, since it already enjoys the patronage of Divine grace, at least in part?

The teaching Magisterium of the Church in Ecumenical Councils also affirms the sacramental state of matrimony.

Lateran Council II (1139)
First defined as infallibly true that matrimony is as true a sacrament as eucharist and baptism.
The Council of Lyons II (1274)
Also infallibly included matrimony among the list of seven sacraments.
The Council of Florence (1438 – 1445)
The seventh is the sacrament of matrimony which is a sign of the close union of Christ and the Church according to the words of the Apostle: “This is a great mystery – I mean in reference to Christ and to the Church” (Eph 5:32).
The Council of Trent (1545 – 1563), Session 24
Therefore, since matrimony under the law of the gospel is, because of the grace given through Christ, superior to the marriage unions of earlier times, our holy Fathers, the councils, and the tradition of the universal Church have always rightly taught that matrimony should be included among the sacraments of the New Law.

Annulment: There Never Was A Marriage

The Roman Catholic Church professes the absolute indissolubility of marriage based on the Bible. The Church has also taken on herself to decide if and when marriage occurs. This process is called annulment.

There are, as human experience teaches, many obstacles to a valid marriage. For instance, if a young woman were forced into marriage under fear of death, she would be incapable of entering into a valid marriage. Or, a person may attempt marriage while already married to a third-party. These reasons and others, if proven to have existed, invalidate marriage.

The Church in her wisdom, her history and the presence of the Holy Spirit takes it upon herself to judge the validity of marriages presented to her for judgment. If the presence of some obstacle–called an impediment–is judged to have been there at the time of a wedding ceremony, the Church issues an annulment. She judges that while there may have been a wedding ceremony there was no marriage in the eyes of God.

The parties are then free to contract a valid marriage.

On Anointing of The Sick – The proper effects of this sacrament include a special grace of healing and comfort to the Christian who is suffering the infirmities of serious illness or old age, and the forgiving of the persons sins. See CCC article 5, 1499. Read James 5:13-15. Jesus constantly healed others throughout the Gospels. Many times before he healed the man or woman from their physical infirmity he would first say, “your sins are forgiven”. This sacrament can be administered more than once and it is not necessary to be near physical death to receive it.

I love this sacrament! I received it once on March 19, 2015 and I believe it changed my life physically and spiritually. Jesus is referred to by many titles in the New Testament, two of which are Healer and Physician, see Mark 2:17. Yes, Jesus is the Divine Physician and only He can make us whole again both physically and spiritually.

I encourage you all to embrace and receive the sacraments. They provide God’s unending life in us, His daughters and sons.

God Bless! Keep Walking!

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