Dear Friends in Christ,
They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.
– Acts 2:42-43
This has been a week of awe, signs, and wonders. Every so often in the life of being a priest, I have a “six sacraments” week. What I mean by that is I have the blessing to celebrate six of the seven sacraments of the Church with people in a short period of time. It often happens at Easter but at other times too. This is one such week.
This week, as in all weeks, I celebrated the Eucharist each day and heard confessions on Saturday. But this week, added in was the celebration of Baptism for three people, the celebration of Confirmation for two people, the Anointing of the Sick for a few people, as well as the witness of the Sacrament of Matrimony for a couple. That’s six, count them six, sacraments! The only one I can’t celebrate is the conferral of Holy Orders. Only the bishop ordains deacons and priests. I did once have a six sacrament week at the same time as when I attended the priesthood ordinations at the Cathedral….so that’s like six and a half I guess!
All of this is a lead up to say how I love the sacraments of the Church and how I praise God for the beauty and joy of the sacraments among us. Why do I think and feel this way? Sacraments are living encounters with Jesus and they draw us deeper into relationship with Him and with each other. More specifically,
“The sacraments are efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is entrusted to us.”
— Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1131. Imagine, God is entrusting us with divine life! That’s what the sacraments do.
When Jesus ascended to Heaven, He promised to be with us until the end of the age. (Matthew 28:20). Jesus is with us always, through the Holy Spirit. We always share in His divine life. He is present when we pray by ourselves or with others; He is there whenever our hearts are turned toward Him and we utter His holy name. But Jesus desires to come close to us and offer us a share in His divine life in a very particular way through the sacraments. He literally “entrusts” us with His divine life when we approach Him spiritually and tangibly in the real signs of His presence in the world. In these signs (water, oil, bread, wine, touch, speech), the Lord is truly present and He touches our lives with His divine life in a real, tangible way. The various signs used in the sacraments are things that we hold in common with people of all times and places. They are common, ordinary things that God enters so that we can experience His grace and be united with Him and with our brothers and sisters in Christ. We can then beautifully remember our encounters with Him in these special ways.
So, for thousands of years, people have been cleansed of sin through the saving waters of Baptism and the forgiving words of absolution. The fragrant oil of chrism has confirmed the baptized and anointed those who are ordained by the imposition of hands. In addition, the laying on of hands and the healing balm of oil has cured and renewed the body and souls of the sick. The exchange of holy vows between and man and woman and the consuming of the body and blood of the Lord in the Eucharist brings Christ to the very center of our being.
The sacraments are signs that point us to the divine life of Christ, while Christ himself is the one who is present in them and who invites us to join Him in a common bond with all the beloved children of the Father. We truly become family when the sacraments are celebrated and when we each open ourselves up to the graces the Father desires to give us through Jesus His Son. Every celebration of a sacrament is a preparation to share fully in God’s divine life in eternity. The sacraments are God’s constant reminder to us of who He is and who we are called to be. In the words of Saint John, “
My dear friends, we are already God’s children, but what we shall be in the future has not been revealed. We are well aware that when He appears we shall be like Him because we shall see Him as He really is.”
— 1 John 3:2
That is why for me, in every celebration of the sacraments, even all six in one week, I am constantly reminded of God’s amazing love for us and how much He desires us to be among the joy of His eternal family. I pray the same for you!
Praise be Jesus Christ!
Fr. David Mulholland