Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Why Be Catholic? (4)


[a] Though our devotion to God must include prayer, fasting and charitable works, Catholic worship (also called ‘liturgy’), is centred on the Seven Sacraments. These were given to us by Christ and by them He gives His grace to our souls (since it is in His person that the priest acts in celebrating the sacraments, it is He –Who-Is that gives them).

The Sacraments being Actions of Christ worshipping the Father in His people for the salvation of souls, the liturgy should be reverent and transcendent, not ‘entertaining’ –entertainment being a man-focused act.

[b] Further, it is 'perfect' in that just as Christ entered the world in a physical body, so in the Sacraments He uses physical things as signs of grace entering the soul, e.g. water in Baptism (Jn.3v5); oil in anointing (Mk.6v13). In each Sacrament, God unites us to Himself in specific ways:

[1] By Baptism He adopts us as His Children; makes us new creatures in the Risen Christ (2.Cor.5v17) and, by sharing the Risen life of Christ in our souls, makes  us members of Christ’s Mystical Body (1.Cor.12v27). In essence, Baptism gives us a share in Christ’s resurrected life so that death has no hold over us, and initiates us into the Community of the Saved.

[2] By Confirmation He deepens our union in the Holy Spirit and gives us a share in the Church’s mission (Acts 8v16-17; 19v5-7);

[3] By Matrimony He takes human love up into Divine Love (MK.6v1-12; Eph.5v21-33) which is eternal (indissoluble), faithful (exclusive) and life-giving (creative in God, pro-creative in man); it is an image of the Holy Trinity: a union of persons in one reality: “The two shall become one” (Mark 10v18).

[4] By Confession, also known as Penance and Reconciliation, He applies to our souls the forgiving power of the Cross so as to restore our union with Him when we have lost it by sin (Jn.20v22-23). On our part we are to be serious about amending our way of life (about making ‘life-style choices’ consistent with God's moral law). Confession is a consoling, healing sacrament because it restore our relationship with God by applying the saving power of the Lord's death on the Cross (the blood shed for the remission of sin) to our souls ('those whose sins you forgive they are forgiven').

[5] By Anointing of the Sick He restores health to souls (and sometimes the body, Mk.6v13; Jas.5v14-17) so it is crucial as death approaches.  Administered at such a time, Anointing is called Extreme Unction; the highest consolation for the soul as death approaches.

[6] By Holy Orders the Catholic Priesthood (which has an unbroken succession from the 12 Apostles to today by the laying on of hands) God channels all the Sacraments to us (Jn.21v15-18). It is by Holy Orders that Christ remains with us as our Good Shepherd (1.Pet.5v1-4).

[7] The Holy Eucharist (Holy Mass and Holy Communion) the Bread of Heaven that we can receive daily for our union with God and the gaining of strength from God, is the Supreme Sacrament for three main reasons:  

[7i] It is God Himself, from whom alone salvation flows. Jesus said: “I am the Living Bread which has come down from Heaven...” (Jn.6; Matt.26v26). Since the Holy Eucharist is God Himself, it is the power-source of all the other Sacraments -and the source and goal of our entire existence. 

 [7ii] It is Christ’s Saving Sacrifice on the Cross made present to us: “This is My Body given up for you...My Blood, shed for you and for many for the remission of sins” (Matt.26v28); “When you eat this Bread and drink this Cup you are proclaiming the Lord’s death” (1.Cor.11v26).

[7iii] It brings the Paschal banquet of Heaven to earth since it brings Christ Our God onto the altar, and wherever the God is, Heaven is.
We thus come to Sunday Mass to meet with God Himself in the Holy Eucharist; we come to love and be loved by God.

Since Mass is Heaven on earth we do not need to die to go to Heaven and be with God and those we have loved; we only need to come to Mass. Indeed, since Mass makes God and heaven present on earth, to come to Mass is to come to Heaven, and to absent ourselves from Mass is to absent ourselves from heaven –and who wants that? It is because we desire God and heaven that we meet with God in heaven at Holy Mass.

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