The Sacraments of the Church mark key moments in our lives and in our relationship with God. God loves everyone, and the gift of that love in our lives is called Grace. Grace is a gift from God not because of anything we have done or accomplished, but because it is given freely and is available to all.
The gift of our life is a grace like this, and we didn’t do anything to be given life. Infact, every day of our life is a new gift, as God is forever pouring out Grace into the world in mysterious and joyful ways.
The Sacraments of the Church are special rituals that mark particular graces in our lives. They are symbols that publicly and visibly mark the way God is working within us and for us. The Church has seven Sacraments, and they can be divided into three groups: Sacraments of Initiation, Sacraments of Commitment and Sacraments of Healing.
The Sacraments of Initiation
The Sacraments of Initiation are about welcoming a new member into the community that is the Church.
At Baptism we are washed of our sin and become members of God’s family. We are filled with the Holy Spirit and anointed with oil, and are reborn into the Body of Christ.
At Confirmation the gift of the Spirit we received at Baptism is reinforced. By the laying on of hands, we confirm our choice to be a member of the people of God, and commit to the mission passed on from Jesus and the Apostles.
When we receive the Sacrament of the Eucharist, the bread and wine that becomes the body and the blood of Jesus at the alter during Mass, we enter into Communion with the whole of the Church throughout the world and history and into eternity. We are bonded with the body of people who also take the Eucharist and together worship God. We are only Baptized and Confirmed once, as they are the Sacraments that mark our growing into faith, but the Eucharist is the full celebration of our unity, and a sacrament that we receive again and again. The Sacrament of the Eucharist will nourish us for the rest of our lives.
The Sacraments of Commitment
The Sacraments of Marriage and Holy Orders mark different vocations, or ways we are called to live our lives. Holy Orders is being ordained as a priest. The church especially marks Marriage and Holy Orders as solemn and joyful commitments to be vehicles of grace for others. The Joy of being unconditionally loved, and the challenges of loving others unconditionally, is to encounter the challenge and joy of God’s love.
The Sacraments of Healing
The Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Anointing of the Sick are known as the Sacraments of Healing. They are concerned with our well-being and restoring our peace with God and with each other through the outpouring of grace.
In reconciliation we acknowledge the times that we have failed to live up to the challenge of our Baptism. When we sin, we damage our relationship with others, the natural world and God. Through confessing our sins, and expressing our remorse, we can find forgiveness. Forgiveness is a grace that invites a response; if we are forgiven, how can we withhold forgiveness from others?
The Anointing of the Sick is a sacrament offered in times of illness, especially when it appears that someone is close to death. Death is perhaps the most challenging of life’s moments for us to face, whether it is our own mortality or someone we love. As Catholics we live in hope and joy because we believe that death is not the end. The Anointing of the Sick seeks to ease distress at this challenging time and bring healing and peace.