Why Sacraments

The Sacraments

"Since the Lord is no longer visible among us," wrote Saint Leo the Great about the year 450, "everything of him that was visible has passed into the sacraments." 

Christ instituted the sacraments of the new law. There are seven: Baptism, Confirmation, the Eucharist, Penance, the Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders and Matrimony. The seven sacraments touch all the stages and all the important moments of Christian life: they give birth and increase, healing and mission to the Christian's life of faith. There is thus a certain resemblance between the stages of natural life and the stages of the spiritual life. (CCC 1210)

The Sacraments of Initiation are Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist. These are the three sacraments that make a person a Christian—the sacraments that initiate someone into the Body of Christ.

The Sacraments of Healing are Reconciliation and the Anointing of the Sick. These two repair what is broken in the body and soul.

The Sacraments in Service of Communion are Marriage and Holy Orders. These sacraments build up the Church, in number and in strength; they are directed toward the good of others rather than oneself.

Why do we have Sacraments?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: “Sacraments are ‘powers that come forth’ from the Body of Christ, which is ever-living and life-giving. They are actions of the Holy Spirit at work in His Body, the Church. They are ‘the masterworks of God’ in the new and everlasting covenant” (n. 1116).

This definition evokes some of the memorable moments of Jesus’ ministry: the moments when He healed people. In a press of a crowd, Jesus said,

“Someone touched Me; for I perceive power has gone forth from Me” (Lk 8:46), and immediately the anonymous woman was cured of her chronic hemorrhage. “And all the crowd sought to touch Him, for power came forth from Him and healed them all” (Lk 6:19).

This is the essence of Jesus’ ministry.

“God so loved the world” that He “became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 3:16, 1:14).

He had a human body, so that we could see Him and touch Him; and through His touch, He brought healing to “all the crowd”. His physical cures win our attention, but these are not His most important works. He Himself subordinated these miracles to the spiritual miracle of salvation from sins (cf. Mk 2:9).

Jesus came to bring salvation, a word that, in the ancient languages, is synonymous with health and safety. His physical cures were “outward signs” of a deeper and more lasting spiritual healing. Presumably, all of the people He cured during His ministry eventually died. Presumably, then, their physical cure was a secondary importance, subordinate to an enduring healing, a spiritual healing, that would survive even the death of the body…

Though His healings were primarily spiritual, Jesus still worked them by physical means—by anointing a man with mud and spittle (Jn 9:6-7), by His spoken words (Mk 10:52), or merely by making eye contact (Lk 22:61).

Why would God manifest His power by such ordinary, earthy means? He did not need to become a man in order to work miracles. God can and He does work wonders from heaven. It was not for His own sake that He took flesh, but for ours. He made us, and so He knows that we human beings learn through sensible signs, sensory data. You know the old saying: Seeing is believing. It is possible, of course, to believe without seeing, but God is willing to accommodate our human condition to a remarkable degree (see Jn 20:24-29).

What’s more, our Lord intended His work not just for His small number of contacts in an obscure land, in the brief time of his ministry. He wanted everyone to experience His presence and His healing touch. He established the Church on earth so that He could extend His incarnation through time and space. Thus he commanded his priests to celebrate the sacraments with Him—through all time—on earth. Baptize all nations, He told the apostles (Mt 28:19). And of the Eucharist He said,

“Do this in remembrance of Me” (I Cor 11:24).

The rest of the New Testament testifies that the Apostles did as He had commanded. When they established the Church in a new place, they baptized, they gathered for Eucharist, they ordained priests, they anointed the sick.

By the power of the Holy Spirit, the Church has continued to do the works of God incarnate. The Church is His living body (1 Cor 12:12-27, Col 1:24, Rom 12:5) and power comes forth from it, from the day of Pentecost “to the close of the age” (Mt 28:20).

This information was taken from “Swear to God,” by Dr. Scott Hahn pgs. 13-15

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