739 …Through the Church’s sacraments, Christ communicates his Holy and sanctifying Spirit to the members of his Body….These “mighty works of God,” offered to believers in the sacraments of the Church, bear their fruit in the new life in Christ, according to the Spirit.
Catholic Church. (2000). Catechism of the Catholic Church (2nd Ed., p. 195). Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference.
We all know that you never know how much you rely on something until you are deprived of it. Back in my high school days, playing football, I made a hobby of breaking my fingers. Of all the fingers, and I have broken each one at least once, I discovered that the thumb is the most important. Tape two or three fingers together and I can make do, but take the thumb away and chaos ensues. Car doors, door knobs, writing, even shifting gears, all an adventure without your thumb!
I have been without the Eucharist for almost three months now. Lets just say I’m not a fan of the fast, but obedient. The sacramental break has got me thinking though, how do protestants do this??!! I have been since age 14, a sacramental based Christian. Before that young age I was a member of a low Episcopal Church, and though fond of the memories, not a fan of the slight of the sacraments. I find it amazing that people live like this!
We go to church to worship, it’s not a matter of what “I” get from mass, it is what I am giving to God. All the same, 5 out of 6 Christians would say that it’s nice to leave mass with an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace residing within us; and who could blame us? God and each of His created going out into the world together; united as one.
How many go to church and receive only what man can offer. Now please know, Fr. Kennedy at St. Timothy’s and Fr. Mike at St. Stephens are great preachers, but I have preached a few sermons and I would never think I was the main event at mass. I once saw Stevie Ray Vaughan in concert, but after he was done with a great set, I stayed firmly in my seat, as the Who was next up, who would leave? Who would buy a Cadillac and take the leather seats out for a bench seat from a 65 Ford? Who creates a roller coaster that only goes 5 mph? You get my drift, why do so many reject the sacraments? Or worse, treat them as expendable?
WARNING!! THE FOLLOWING COMMENTS MAY MAKE SOME CRAZY IN RAGE.
But please, here me out….
I have had this conversation with protestants, yea even Calvinists; and the answer is always the same, and lets say it together, Romans 10:9 9 because, if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved. Sorry, I used a Catholic Bible for that one, meaning, yes it is in there! Here is all we need. We say that we believe and we are saved. First, is that true? James 2:17 So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. Catholic Bible too, but I have it on good authority that in every Bible except for Luthers that verse resides. Here is where these conversations turn foul, works based theology. Well lets derail that train for just a moment, I’ll come back to it in a later blog post, with a similar warning as to the subject matter causing angst. Lets dwell with one narrow part of this issue, does Jesus want us saved only, or does He want us busy saving others? Evangelism. Well of course you say! But wait, I thought I was saved and that was all there was to it? If I Evangelize, that is a lot of work!! Believe me I know, one family at a time I have lived the last twenty years. Isn’t this work? And isn’t it requested of us? Matthew 28:All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.”
Oh that’s a lot of work!! It takes going out and finding sinners, both great and small. Befriend them, talk to them, be there for them, pester them about possibly coming to church with you, taking them to church, making certain they don’t sit in somebody else’s pew, hoping the sermon is on point, obsessing about every point of the service hoping my guest loves it, following up, getting the membership done, baptism, sponsoring for confirmation, going to class with them, and then being there for the rest of your life when they call. Now there was a long (run-on) sentence, and yes, there was a lot of work! So please leave once saved always saved at the door. God wants, no, expects us to work! If this were not the case would all the mega churches please let loose of the 10’s of thousands of people in each of your churches and take a break, I have a better way to show them. Honestly, you guys at the mega churches are doing way too much work to not be doing any work. OK, just admit it, you guys are doing a lot of work! It’s God’s work, and if you did not do it your faith would be dead…admit it!
So we all work, well some more than others, is there room in your church? If there are empty seats we have more work to be done! We work to save others, to bring them to baptism. Baptism changes the sinner to an adopted child of God. All sin is erased. A new man emerges in Christ. We all believe this. It’s almost like the outward sign of the words and water brought about an invisible spiritual change inside of the baptized. Whoops, we have a sacrament! Honestly, did you think that sinner changed because of all the hard work you did? Works? Works that gained salvation? But I digress. God did it! “These “mighty works of God,” offered to believers in the sacraments of the Church” The sacraments are God working in the Church. They are said to be invisible, but I see them all the time! Anybody can, if they would just drop the disbelief that “man” can actually confect something that IS God. How can man do such wonders? God. God is how man can do such wonders. Just as Noah built an arc, Moses lead Israel from slavery, David built a great nation and all the prophets prophesied through God. How can we believe Moses parted the Red Sea and not believe a man can preside over a sacrament, Christ becoming real and present before us?
God would not leave us alone! Yes He left scripture, written by men filled with God. Wouldn’t you give your savings to see Paul as he wrote, or John? I would! But I will tell you a secret, you want to see men filled with God? Go to mass, watch the priest. If he has not had a parishioner bite his head off 2 minutes before mass, you will see a man that is full of God, in awe of what is going on at his fingertips. So much so he genuflects not once but twice at the words that bring Christ to be body and blood soul and divinity in front of us. Words that Paul wrote, but I digress. But for what purpose? Why would God bestow the sacraments upon us? Because we have a lot of work to do.
We need God with us, daily. We need mass daily. Which brings me back to my point, I need the Eucharist! God is strengthening me through this discipline, whats more He is causing me to know just how blessed I am to be sacramentally grounded. How do the non-sacramental churches do it?
Go to mass this Sunday and enjoy the privilege. Take part in the blessed sacrament. Watch the priest as he consecrates. See Christ present in him, and in the sacrament. Feel God within you, let Him strengthen you. Then go out and do the work that is in front of us, to bring all to the knowledge of the sacraments; the Church.