Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Sacraments

Beginning today I resume my series on the Sacraments which began in the fall. Then, we considered Baptism, Confirmation and the Holy Eucharist. I would like to give a short review of these Sacraments.

Today, is the Solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord and marks the close of the Christmas season. Jesus instituted the Sacrament of Baptism when He was baptized by St. John the Baptist. John’s baptism was more or less a sign that the baptized was going to enter a new life, a life turned toward God. The Baptism that Jesus instituted is a different kind of sign. This sign contains the reality of what it signifies. The water and the words ("I baptize you...") indicate that God cleanses one of all sin and infuses His Divine Life into the baptized.

The Holy Eucharist is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. It is also called Holy Communion when a person receives it. That is why one must be in willful communion with the Faith, with the Catholic Church, and not be aware of having any unabsolved serious sin on the soul in order to receive this the greatest of Sacraments.

Baptism, the Holy Eucharist and Confirmation are called sacraments of Christian initiation. Confirmation completes baptismal grace. When an unbaptized adult studies and enters the Catholic faith, he or she receives Baptism, Confirmation and the Holy Eucharist at the same time, that is, within one Mass.

The ordinary minister of Confirmation is a bishop. Sometimes a priest may confirm as in the cases of persons who have completed Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults. The bishop anoints the forehead of the person with sacred chrism which is a sweet smelling oil consecrated during Holy Week. While anointing he says "N. be sealed with the Gift of the. Holy Spirit." Just like at Baptism, the newly confirmed receives an indelible mark or character on his soul. This mark is the seal of God, meaning that the person now totally belongs to Him and is in his service forever. This mark also guarantees God’s protection when the person undergoes spiritual trials, especially at the point of death.

Confirmation strengthens the gifts of the Holy Spirit already given at Baptism, namely, wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. These gifts are supernatural aids to counter our defects. They help us to do what God wants us to do, that is, to spread the faith and to defend it when challenged.

God wants us to be happy with Him now in this life as well as in the next. We thank Him for instituting these Sacraments so that this may be a reality in our lives.

Father Stanley