Strange yet unsurprising how I felt my heart set on fire this evening during Fr. Arro’s talk on the Sacraments. I could sense the love in his heart, and the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. It must be the Holy Spirit in me helping me to sense that… for this is really the Sacraments as I have never heard explained before.
God wanted to remind me so powerfully that His love and grace is not confined or limited to the Sacraments. That seems so much to be the mentality of Catholics… one that I also fall prey to without realizing. We put too much stock on the Sacraments in a way that was never meant by Christ. These are living signs of God’s love for us… and they are significant and important. But they are still distinct from the actual love of God which is greater, deeper and wider than what the Sacraments themselves reveal to us.
I was particularly touched by Fr. Arro’s answer to a question about burial/funeral (which is not a sacrament of course). What if a Catholic husband passes away and his non-believer widow and family does not choose a Catholic funeral for him? And his parents wish for a Catholic service? Fr. Arro’s response was so precise and true (though rather unexpected for me and I’m sure for the rest of the audience). He said, “We do not fight over a corpse.” For the man who is dead, this question is irrelevant. He is already with God in heaven. The service is meant for the comfort of the family who remains, and presumably, the most important person in question is the widow.
Why is it that we subconsciously limit God and start to think of the sacraments and other things we do as bigger than God’s grace? What does it mean to receive the sacraments? What does it mean if we cannot receive the sacraments? How does it impact our lives as Christians? What is the church’s teachings regarding sacraments? If the sacraments are not necessary for salvation (as they definitely are not), how do we explain and understand just how significant they are for the life of a Christian?
It is part of the richness of life in the spirit in a community I suppose. To be reminded through visible signs of God’s love for us and our love for Him and each other. It is as ‘necessary’ to our faith as is a husband’s profession of love for his wife, the little gifts, hugs and kisses… these signs are not the same as his love for her. But they communicate this love and feed the wife’s emotional needs (because she is human and human beings have these needs) and strengthens their relationship. Perhaps that is what the sacraments are to Christians.
I look forward to the next few weeks as Fr. Arro shows us the scriptural and historical origins and explanations of the seven sacraments. Today we had a preview of next week’s topic of Baptism. To be baptized is to be ‘drenched’ in its original Hebrew meaning. The meaning of baptism for a Christian is to be drenched in God’s love and filled with new life. Something about that description fills me with such joy. Mmmm…
I am reminded again of how many things I don’t really understand or often forget about my faith and about the Catholic Church. Considering how many Catholics actually have such a poor understanding of the practices and teachings of our church, it is little wonder why so many of our Protestant brothers and sisters misunderstand and have misgivings about what we do. Catholics really owe it to God and to themselves to find out more about the richness of God’s love as practiced in their faith instead of getting trapped in a mindset of ‘thou shalt’ and ‘thou shalt not’. There is so much grace and love and understanding to be discovered still. I want to open my mind and heart to receive as much as I can!