Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Last weekend, I had the privilege of conferring the Sacrament of Confirmation for two groups of our 8th grade parishioners. Bishop Caggiano was unable to join us and so he granted me extra-ordinary delegation to celebrate the sacrament. The experience of receiving that special delegation and in turn having the honor of celebrating an important spiritual moment in the lives of young people reminded me of the awe with which I ought to celebrate every sacramental celebration. The value and meaning of the sacraments cannot be overstated.
Every sacrament has an ordinary minister, that is, one whose role it is to celebrate that sacrament. Some sacraments, like Holy Orders and Confirmation, are reserved to a bishop. In the case of Confirmation, a bishop may delegate a priest to celebrate the sacrament in certain circumstances. The ordinary minister of the Eucharist, Reconciliation/Confession, or Anointing of the Sick is a bishop or priest. The ordinary minister of Baptism is a bishop, priest, or deacon. The ministers of Matrimony are the man and woman who marry, while a bishop, priest, or deacon stands as the Church’s witness and offers the Church’s blessing. Through the ministers of these sacraments, grace is poured out in abundance for the one receiving the sacrament. Grace is poured out in abundance. This fact about the sacraments bears greater reflection. The Baltimore Catechism definition of a sacrament is “an outward sign, instituted by Christ, that confers grace.” By means of the sacraments, God moves toward us, His people. The blessings and graces we need are available to us in a sure way via the sacramental life of the Church. Not only are these graces available, the desire of God is for us to receive them, and receive them well. The sacraments are all about God’s action for us, on our behalf. We receive them without any merit, without deserving them. We receive them as gifts freely given.
In order to receive these freely given gifts openly and fruitfully, a certain amount of preparation is necessary. And so parents are asked to spend time preparing for their child’s Baptism (as the responsibility for the graces received in Baptism is entrusted to the care of parents), children prepare to receive their first Holy Communion and Confirmation, we examine our consciences before going to Confession, couples go through a process of preparation in anticipation of their wedding day. Even the Anointing of the Sick has a certain preparation by means of a penitential rite, albeit as part of the ritual celebrating the sacrament. Of course, most of the preparation indicated above pertains to those sacraments received once. The sacraments we ought to receive most frequently, Confession and the Eucharist, suggest a related spiritual preparation. Am I ready to receive Jesus in the Eucharist? I ought to examine my conscience in order to be aware of my sins. Am I aware of any grave sins or serious faults that I have committed? If so, I ought to bring them to the sacrament of Confession. Having opened my heart to the merciful love of God, I can then receive the Eucharist in such a spiritual state as to fully cooperate with the gifts Jesus wishes to bestow on me. If I am not aware of any serious sins, I can still prepare for reception of the Eucharist by my prayer, by being on time for Mass, by focusing my mind and heart on offering worthy worship to God.
This week, let us reflect on the gift of the sacraments and how, through them, God wishes to take action in our lives. Let us prepare ourselves well to receive the sacraments and recognize our need for God’s grace and blessing in all things. Aware of our need, let us courageously approach His mercy and love so that our celebration of the sacraments may be worthy and fruitful, and we may cooperate with the powerful action of our Creator in us and for our salvation