SACRAMENTS OF INITIATION
The Old Testament has many images of water that help us understand Baptism. Each year during the Easter Vigil, the water that will be used in baptism is blessed. The prayers of blessing call these images to mind. At the time of Creation, the Spirit breathed upon the waters (Genesis 1:2). During the great Exodus the waters of the Red Sea parted, allowing the people of Israel to cross from slavery to freedom (Exodus 14: 21 – 31). Later, in the New Testament, John the Baptist administered a baptism of repentance to Jesus in the waters of the River Jordan (Mark 1: 1 – 11). Knowing that Baptism is necessary for salvation, parents have their babies baptized not long after they are born. Baptism signifies the baby’s entrance into the Church. The community of believers and the parents make a commitment to care for and teach this child as he or she is raised in the Catholic faith.
The doctrine of the Real Presence asserts that in the Holy Eucharist, Jesus is literally and wholly present—body and blood, soul and divinity—under the appearances of bread and wine. Evangelicals and Fundamentalists frequently attack this doctrine as "unbiblical," but the Bible is forthright in declaring it (cf. 1 Cor. 10:16–17, 11:23–29; and, most forcefully, John 6:32–71). The early Church Fathers interpreted these passages literally. In summarizing the early Fathers’ teachings on Christ’s Real Presence, renowned Protestant historian of the early Church J. N. D. Kelly, writes: "Eucharistic teaching, it should be understood at the outset, was in general unquestioningly realist, i.e., the consecrated bread and wine were taken to be, and were treated and designated as, the Savior’s body and blood."
The sacrament of confirmation completes the sacrament of baptism. If baptism is the sacrament of re-birth to a new and supernatural life, confir- mation is the sacrament of maturity and coming of age. The real confession of Christ consist in this 'that the whole man submits himself to Truth, in the judgment of his understanding, in the submission of his will and in the consecration of his whole power of love . . . To do this, poor-spirited man is only able when he has been confirmed by God's grace.' This confirmation in the power of the Holy Spirit leading to a firm profession of faith has always been the particular effect which Catholic tradition has ascribed to the sacrament. It is effect which complements and completes that of baptism.
SACRAMENTS OF HEALING
Annointing of the Sick
The name Jesus means “God saves.” The name emphasizes that Jesus is the one who has come to save all. Christ means “anointed.” The name shows that God the Father has given Jesus a mission and endowed him with power to save and the power to heal. Jesus' whole life was aimed at saving people. His words and actions are the foundation of the saving grace we now received in the sacraments. The sacrament that helps unite those who are suffering with Jesus' saving and healing power is the Anointing of the Sick. Through this sacrament people receive forgiveness for their sins and comfort in their suffering; they are restored in spirit; and sometimes they even experience the return of physical health. Suffering is a part of life, but Jesus unites our suffering with his passion and death so that through our suffering we can participate in his saving and healing work. The sacrament also reminds us that God wants to give comfort to the suffering and wants us to relieve suffering where we can.
The Sacrament of Penance is an experience of the gift of God's boundless mercy. Not only does it free us from our sins but it also challenges us to have the same kind of compassion and forgiveness for those who sin against us. We are liberated to be forgivers. We obtain new insight into the words of the Prayer of St. Francis: "It is in pardoning that we are pardoned." Jesus entrusted the ministry of reconciliation to the Church. The Sacrament of Penance is God's gift to us so that any sin committed after Baptism can be forgiven. In confession we have the opportunity to repent and recover the grace of friendship with God. It is a holy moment in which we place ourselves in his presence and honestly acknowledge our sins, especially mortal sins. With absolution, we are reconciled to God and the Church. The Sacrament helps us stay close to the truth that we cannot live without God. "In him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28). While all the Sacraments bring us an experience of the mercy that comes from Christ's dying and rising, it is the Sacrament of Reconciliation that is the unique Sacrament of mercy.
Sacraments at the Service of Communion
Matrimony is a holy sacrament, officiated by a priest, of uniting a man to a woman. Through this holy sacrament, the man and woman become one, for as the Lord Jesus said, "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh. So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate (Matthew 19:5,6)." St. Paul expressed the sanctity of the Sacrament of Christian Matrimony, saying, "This is a great mystery (Ephesians 5:32)," and, "Marriage is honorable among all and the bed undefiled (Hebrews 13:4)."
Jesus chose 12 men to be apostles. One of them, Judas, betrayed Jesus, and then hanged himself. After Jesus' ascension, the apostles had the important mission of spreading the news about Jesus, but they were lacking one member. At a gathering of Jesus' disciples, Peter told the group that a replacement for Judas was needed. The man to be chosen needed to have been a witness to Jesus' life, death, resurrection, and ascension. Two men were proposed, Justus and Matthias. Peter and the apostles prayed for the Lord to show them whom to choose. Matthias was chosen and became the new apostle (Acts 1:15-26). The apostles chose a new Church leader to be a witness to Jesus Christ and continue his work. Today the pope and bishops have been called and chosen to continue Jesus' work; they are successors to the apostles. All members of the Church participate in the priesthood of all believers through Baptism. However, some men are called to serve Jesus and the Church today through the celebration of the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Through their leadership in the Church, they help continue Jesus' presence on earth in the tradition of the apostles.