The spiritual life and the sacraments
Happy Sunday and God bless you immensely! According to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, “…God is not simply Word. In the sacraments he gives Himself to us in person, through physical realities.” His presence in us through the sacraments leaves in us the abundance of His graces, thus, sacraments are outward signs that instill inward graces. Meanwhile, we could never have had the spiritual life save the sacraments, especially, baptism that ushered us into it. Confirmation strengthens our baptismal grace and imprints a spiritual seal of the Holy Spirit in our souls. Also, the Eucharist is the spiritual food for our soul and it consequently nourishes us to grow in the faith we had received at our baptism. Equally, through the sacrament of penance or confession Christ continues to exercise His merciful forgiveness through one who acts in His person – a Catholic Priest. That sacrament enable us to know how incapacitated we are and it further strengthen our resolutions to advance in Christian virtues and maturity by checking sin and its vices. While the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick restores health or gives the recipient the grace to cope with the challenges of sickness in general; the sacraments of Holy Orders and Matrimony provide the graces to fulfill the duties and responsibilities of our state of calling that is as priest or married people.
From the foregoing, there is a strong connection between our spiritual life and the sacraments. How? Jerome F. Coniker opines that “The very foundation of our supernatural (spiritual) life is the sacraments, which confer on us the Holy Spirit and His gifts and charisms and the infused virtues, beginning with the theological virtues (faith, hope and love)… and the cardinal virtues (prudence, wisdom, justice and temperance)….” It is pertinent to note that our spiritual life is Christ centred (Christocentric). This being so, life for the spiritual person is Christ. Then a firm devotion to the sacraments is necessary to give us the opportunity to uniquely encounter Christ. What is that sign that explains the presence of Christ in a soul as a result of the sacramental effect? It is sanctifying grace. “Sanctifying grace we will remember is that marvelous supernatural life, that sharing-in-God’s-own-life that is the result of God’s love, the Holy Spirit, indwelling in the soul.” Next to sanctifying grace is actual grace which enables a recipient of the sacraments to distinguish between good from evil or virtues from vices.
Again, the seven sacraments are categorized into two: sacraments of the dead (Baptism and Penance) and sacraments of the living (Confirmation, Eucharist, Anointing of the sick, Holy Orders and Matrimony). But the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist is the greatest sacrament and to say so is to state the obvious,
Baptism of course is the most necessary sacrament; without baptism we cannot get to heaven. Yet, despite all the wonderful things that Baptism and other five sacraments accomplish in the soul, they still are but instruments of God for the giving of grace; while in the Holy Eucharist we have not merely an instrument for the giving of grace-we have the actual Giver of grace Himself, Jesus Christ our Lord, truly and personally present (Leo J. Trese, 2007).
If we truly appreciate the statement above, then attending Mass (the Lamb’s Supper) ought to be our primary spiritual exercise as spiritual persons aspiring to be Christ like. For the Eucharist is the core devotional doctrine of our Catholic faith. There is no gainsaying that Christianity expects us to become conformed to Christ and Christ knew the challenges ahead of us, so He goes ahead of us to offer Himself as spiritual food to bring about that conformity demanded of us. Our responsibility is to obediently respond to His clarion call! “How inexcusable are those Catholics who believe, but do not practice that belief. That Jesus whom others admire, Catholics possess—ever living in the Eucharist. They have free access to Him and can, and should, receive Him even daily as the food of their souls. You do not need somebody to convince you that Jesus Christ is present in the Eucharist. He made a promise to be with us until the end of time (Matt. 28:20). Be wise, attend Mass, participate actively and receive the fruits of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass – Jesus Christ in Holy Communion.
It follows that the Eucharist is a precious gift by Christ to His faithful and it must be guarded jealously, it must be appreciated by a worthy reception, sincere devotion that is characterized by a high sense of consistency. Nothing on earth is equal to this priceless gift; therefore the “need” for husbands and wives, children, money, job and “breakthroughs” in life cannot equate the Eucharist. My dear, apart from receiving the Eucharist in order to conform to the image of Christ, we need the Eucharist also for a successful resurrection and for eternal life. Mind you, the Eucharist is food for the Angels but with the Psalmist I ask, “what are humans that you (God) are mindful of them, mere mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them little less than a god…” (Ps 8: 5-6). I hope you can easily grasp how God’s love for us is inestimable? Because of the absolute necessity of the Eucharist, Jesus did not spare His Apostles on the indispensability of the Eucharist. He says, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” But the Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” And they walked away. Jesus then turned to the twelve and said, “Do you also want to leave?” Fortunately, Simon Peter answered Him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the message of eternal life” (Cf Jn 6: 22-71).
Fr. John Odeyemi of Ilorin Diocese exclaims, “To give up your faith in which you were baptized and where you were given the gift of the Body and Blood of Christ for the love of a man (or woman) is always hard for me to understand. I feel it is a betrayal of the only one whose love can never fade.” Jesus says, at the resurrection, the dead neither marry nor are given to marriage, but they are like Angels in heaven, (Mk 12:25). Please don’t misunderstand or misquote what I am driving at and conclude that our discussion does not promote the importance of marriage. No! Marriage is important and was it not on the occasion of the wedding feast at Cana that Jesus performed His first miracle? I am a fruit of marriage! So, what are we saying? It is the Jesus that perfected marriage and raised it to the state of a sacrament that we should reject for marriage? If we do so, then we are chasing form instead of substance. Jesus is the author of marriage, so seek His face for direction about your marriage, otherwise you may move ahead and marry somebody who is not your husband or wife. Remember the Samaritan woman whom Jesus told, “For you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband.” God’s time is always the best and will always remain the best. Happy Sunday and God bless you immensely!