“A Sacrament is a festive action in which Christians assemble to celebrate their lived experience and to call to heart their common story. The action is a symbol of God’s care for us in Christ. Enacting the symbol brings us closer to one another in the Church to the Lord who is there for us.”
(Tad Guzie, The Book of Sacramental Basics, Paulist Press, New York/ Mahwah, 1981)
I am always fascinated by the development of the Church and particularly its sacramental life. Recognising what God does for His people and how He nourishes and strengthens them, opens us up to recognising what a privilege it is to be part of the Church. Of course, sacraments have evolved and developed to become what they are, but they are very much moments of encounter with the living Lord.
The journey for adults who want to become members of the Church is a particularly profound one. To journey with those seeking life in the Church, and therefore in the sacraments, ultimately to bring them to life through the Sacraments is entirely life giving. I had the privilege this Easter of baptising two adults, confirming them and bringing them into Eucharistic sharing. A further two adults were received into the Church, confirmed and admitted to the Eucharist. What a joy, as a priest, to journey with these brave individuals and continue to share with them the joy of membership in the Church.
Most Catholics remember such sacramental moments. Few of us remember baptism, but have vivid memories of the celebration of Confirmation and First Communion. We celebrate these events as ‘festive’ occasions in the presence of our friends, families and the whole worshipping community. God does something for us and we gain a new strength from God. We ‘call to heart our common story’ through listening to and responding to the Word of God, whilst sharing a sacramental journey. It is that common story that strengthens the unity of the Christian believers and implies the growth of the Church.
Throughout the Easter Season, we listen each day to the Acts of the Apostles and find a renewed passion through hearing how the Church, after the Resurrection begins to spread and grow. That growth never stops. A little like those four who became members of the Church in this parish, or the 121 who became members of the Church in Glasgow this year, our mission never ceases to invite new members. The Apostles encountered hardships and difficulties, but continued in their mission. When the numbers of believers increases, they realise the need to share out the tasks required to care for people so as not to neglect the preaching of the Word. It’s no different in our day: we need priests and deacons who will preach the Word and celebrate the sacraments while others carry out the responsibility of caring for the day to day needs of their communities.
The Easter Season is the central time for the celebration of the sacraments, bringing life, vigour and enthusiasm to all those who receive them. What is needed is the continued growth of believers and priests and deacons to minister to them as we continue the mission of the apostles in preaching the Word and sharing the life of Christ with the whole world!
Rev. David Wallace