I need to confess something… I’m a sinner. Not only am I a sinner, but I’m also in desperate need of God’s grace, God’s unmerited favor. Thankfully, my loving God does not leave me wallowing in my sin. God the Father sent God the Son to die for me for on the cross. God the Father and God the Son then sent God the Holy Spirit to empower and strengthen me through the sacraments. All the sacraments play an important role in overcoming sin. Sacraments provide the grace needed to overcome sin and reach the ultimate goal of happiness, holiness, and heaven.
In this article, I look at the sacraments as healing balms for a soul injured by sin. I explain how God uses each sacrament in His plan of salvation. Jesus stands with outstretched arms waiting for us to come “taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him” (Psalm 34:8). I identify as a sinner in desperate need of God’s grace. How about you?
Are We Sinners?
Many in our current culture, and sadly in our Church, try to persuade us that we are not sinners in need of grace. They tell us God loves us and that this love means God wants our subjective happiness above all else. God does not make “junk,” therefore we are fine in our sin. They, like the serpent, try to convince us sin is of no consequence: “Did God actually say…”? (Gen. 3:1). Such an approach puts souls in eternal jeopardy. Indeed, God does not make “junk.” God makes humans and humans in turn sin. This sin separates us from God and causes most of our unhappiness and suffering. This sin ultimately leads to death and eternal separation from God.
Please, do not let others put your soul at risk. Seek holiness. Seek Christ.
Baptism and Sin
1263 By Baptism all sins are forgiven, original sin and all personal sins, as well as all punishment for sin. In those who have been reborn nothing remains that would impede their entry into the Kingdom of God, neither Adam’s sin, nor personal sin, nor the consequences of sin, the gravest of which is separation from God.
Moreover, through Christ in baptism the power of sin is broken. In baptism, all sins are forgiven, both original and personal. The baptized receive a clean slate and the ability to seek God and live a virtuous life.
1266 The Most Holy Trinity gives the baptized sanctifying grace, the grace of justification:
– enabling them to believe in God, to hope in him, and to love him through the theological virtues;
– giving them the power to live and act under the prompting of the Holy Spirit through the gifts of the Holy Spirit;
– allowing them to grow in goodness through the moral virtues.
Thus the whole organism of the Christian’s supernatural life has its roots in Baptism.
Therefore, in baptism God forgives our sin and enables a holy life. No longer left in our sin, the baptized experience new life and the power of grace. But we fail and can (and do) fall into sin after baptism. In light of this fact, God gave His Church another sacrament—Penance/Reconciliation.
Bless Me Father, For I Have Sinned
Jesus gave to His apostles the authority to forgive sins (John 20:19, 22-23). These apostles then passed on this authority to their appointed successors, and so on to this day. This ministry of reconciliation offers opportunities for reconciliation to God through the confession and absolution of sin.
1441 Only God forgives sins. Since he is the Son of God, Jesus says of himself, “The Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins” and exercises this divine power: “Your sins are forgiven.” Further, by virtue of his divine authority he gives this power to men to exercise in his name.
1442 Christ has willed that in her prayer and life and action his whole Church should be the sign and instrument of the forgiveness and reconciliation that he acquired for us at the price of his blood. But he entrusted the exercise of the power of absolution to the apostolic ministry which he charged with the “ministry of reconciliation.” The apostle is sent out “on behalf of Christ” with “God making his appeal” through him and pleading: “Be reconciled to God.”
Therefore, God refused to let His children wallow in sin and despair. God offers grace and forgiveness to all who seek it with a contrite heart. Jesus waits in the confessional with arms open wide. But one must admit their sin and seek His forgiveness.
Sacraments That Strengthen
The aforementioned sacraments address sin and forgiveness. God also provides sacraments that provide strength for the journey towards holiness. The sacraments of Confirmation, Matrimony, Holy Orders, Eucharist, and Anointing of the Sick comprise the sacraments that strengthen.
1316 Confirmation perfects Baptismal grace; it is the sacrament which gives the Holy Spirit in order to root us more deeply in the divine filiation, incorporate us more firmly into Christ, strengthen our bond with the Church, associate us more closely with her mission, and help us bear witness to the Christian faith in words accompanied by deeds.
God, through Confirmation, imparts a special gift of the Holy Spirit. This gift grants the confirmed greater ability to follow Christ more firmly. Confirmation strengthens the bond between God and the Christian.
1641 “By reason of their state in life and of their order, [Christian spouses] have their own special gifts in the People of God.” This grace proper to the sacrament of Matrimony is intended to perfect the couple’s love and to strengthen their indissoluble unity. By this grace they “help one another to attain holiness in their married life and in welcoming and educating their children.”
God does not call all to marriage but those He does, He gives special grace through the sacrament. This grace enables the pursuit of holiness through the strength of each spouse in the marriage. In a sense, it is as if each spouse needs the other to attain holiness, and ultimately, heaven.
1536 Holy Orders is the sacrament through which the mission entrusted by Christ to his apostles continues to be exercised in the Church until the end of time: thus it is the sacrament of apostolic ministry. It includes three degrees: episcopate, presbyterate, and diaconate.
Holy Orders is a sacrament that strengthens because the grace given in the other sacraments rely on the sacrament of holy orders in most cases. The sole exception is baptism. Those who receive holy orders, particularly bishops and priests, assist in the ministry of sacramental grace. They baptize, forgive sin, confirm, marry, anoint the sick, and consecrate bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ.
1405 There is no surer pledge or dearer sign of this great hope in the new heavens and new earth “in which righteousness dwells,” than the Eucharist. Every time this mystery is celebrated, “the work of our redemption is carried on” and we “break the one bread that provides the medicine of immortality, the antidote for death, and the food that makes us live forever in Jesus Christ.”
Moreover, the Catechism calls the Eucharist “the source and summit of the Christian life” (1324). For Catholics, the Eucharist is the true manna from heaven, the food of immortality. It provides the nourishment needed on the long and narrow path to heaven. Hopefully, we eventually become what we eat.
Anointing of the Sick
1520 A particular gift of the Holy Spirit. The first grace of this sacrament is one of strengthening, peace and courage to overcome the difficulties that go with the condition of serious illness or the frailty of old age. This grace is a gift of the Holy Spirit, who renews trust and faith in God and strengthens against the temptations of the evil one, the temptation to discouragement and anguish in the face of death. This assistance from the Lord by the power of his Spirit is meant to lead the sick person to healing of the soul, but also of the body if such is God’s will. Furthermore, “if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.”
All experience death, eventually. Suffering and the fear of death may cause anxiety and despair. Grace is needed to meet suffering and death with the hope found in eternal happiness with God. This sacrament heals the soul and may also heal the body—if God wills it. Furthermore, Anointing of the Sick forgives sin and prepares the soul to meet God.
I am a Sinner in Need of God’s Grace. How About You?
How’s the state of your soul? Do you think yourself not a sinner? Is God’s grace of no consequence to you? I judge and condemn no one, as I occupy the same space as all who fall into sin. I seek to implore others to walk beside me. Let us seek to turn away from sin and into the arms of Christ. He waits to heal our souls and free us from all that seeks to destroy us. We must awaken from our slumber and not be lulled back to sleep by those who care not for our soul. Let the words of St. Paul from last week’s reading awaken our hearts to the perils of sin.
11 Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. 12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. Romans 13:11-14
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