By Andrea Chong
My life feels fine without the Sacraments; do the Sacraments really make a difference?
Perhaps you have not been baptised yet, or you have been distant from the Sacraments for a long while, but life seems completely fine and dandy! You may think, “what difference do the Sacraments really make? It’s not like my life is in shambles without them.” It’s true; the Sacraments are not magical rituals that make all right in the world, and our lives do not instantly turn upside down when we have not received them for a while. But this does not take away from the importance of each of the 7 Sacraments.
While our physical lives may not be adversely affected by the absence of Sacraments, our eternal life definitely is! The Catholic Church affirms that for believers, Sacraments are necessary for our salvation (CCC1129). Through each one, Jesus Christ gives a particular healing and transforming grace of the Holy Spirit brought about by the sacrament. This makes us participants of the divine nature and unites us in a living union with Jesus Christ!
Sacraments are Jesus’ intended ways to bring grace into our lives. They are tangible ways in which God helps us live with His grace. Living a sacramental life first and foremost means to be immersed in the life and prayer of the Church, and this is most prominent in the Church’s liturgy.
Wow! That’s amazing! How can I appreciate and begin living a sacramental life?
The liturgical life of the Church revolves around the Eucharistic sacrifice, celebrated at every mass. The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life – it is where the body and blood of our saviour Jesus Christ is made present and accessible to us! How amazing is it to be able to physically feel and even consume the body of Jesus, the one who gives us life?
The Sacraments serve to be physical reminders of Jesus’ immense love for us. In Reconciliation, Jesus reveals His mercy, which desires to forgive us despite our wrongdoings over and over again. In the Eucharist, Jesus’ body is present and we are able to celebrate the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus sacrificing His life to win our freedom from eternal death. In living a life filled with the Sacraments, we are making ourselves available to receive God’s love for us. When we live life knowing we are loved by God, we begin to build a relationship with Him, which in turn orders the relationships we have with ourselves, others around us, and the environment around us. The Sacraments allow divine graces to change our lives even in ways that we cannot see.
Perhaps the most beautiful part of the Sacraments is the certainty that each one holds.
They are efficacious because it is Christ at work – the priest always acts in Persona Christi (in the person of Christ) (CCC1127). When the visible rites are celebrated, this signifies and makes present the graces proper to each sacrament (CCC1131). What this means is that we are called to enter into each Sacrament fully and confidently, knowing that something changes in our lives when we receive a sacrament. For example, there is not a shadow of doubt that if we are contrite, that our sins have been erased, that we are a clean slate, when we receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. As long as the priest performs the visible rites of each sacrament, there is a certainty that Christ has poured out the grace which each sacrament promises. Perhaps then knowing this, we are able to receive the Sacraments fully appreciating the beauty and graces of each one.
Living a sacramental life is living out and practicing our faith as a Catholic. Sacrosanctum Concilium states that “The purpose of the Sacraments is to sanctify men, to build up the Body of Christ and, finally, to give worship to God. Because they are signs, they also instruct. They not only presuppose faith, but by words and objects they also nourish, strengthen, and express it. That is why they are called ‘Sacraments of faith.” In every Sacrament, we encounter Jesus and our faith is strengthened!
There are fruits to living a sacramental life – these fruits are not just personal, but also affect the wider church. The personal fruit of a sacramental life is living a life for God, in Christ. We are deeply united with Christ in the Sacraments, and His grace will begin to flow in our lives and help us live lives of discipleship. For the church, it is an increase in charity and in her mission of witness (CCC1134). This outpouring of grace from Jesus allows us to truly live out our faith together as Church, further highlighting how there is salvation through and in the Church.
Knowing the beauty of the Sacraments, let us be encouraged in living out a life rich with the Sacraments, and thus rich with the presence and grace of God.