LENT, WELL SPENT
This week in our Lent, Well Spent program, we invite you to reflect on the Sacraments of Baptism, Eucharist, and Confirmation (known collectively as the Sacraments of Initiation), as well as the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick (referred to as the Sacraments of Healing).
The Sacraments of Initiation
The Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Eucharist) welcome us into the Catholic faith, strengthen us as witnesses to Christ, and bring us into intimate union with Jesus and all who believe in him.
Baptism is often called the Gateway to the Sacraments since it opens the door to the other six sacraments. A believer must first receive Baptism before they are able to receive any other sacrament. Through Baptism, God removes the stain of original sin and, if we receive Baptism as an adult, God forgives all personal sins we have committed.
In Baptism, God adopts us as his children and we become brothers and sisters in Christ. Baptism configures us to Christ by an indelible character (or mark) on our souls. Consequently, we receive Baptism once only and it cannot be repeated. Being configured to Christ in this way, we share in Christ’s roles of priest, prophet and king. Baptism also incorporates us into the life of the Church; we become members of the church community with certain rights and responsibilities. Through our Baptism, we die and rise with Jesus Christ and possess the eternal life of his resurrection here and now.
By the Sacrament of Confirmation, God anoints our whole being, giving us the power of the Holy Spirit to bear witness to him. Through Confirmation, Christ consecrates us so that we belong to him completely and are commissioned to be his witnesses.
In Confirmation, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit empowers us to more fully love God and our neighbour. Confirmation, like Baptism, imprints an indelible character on the soul which sets us apart for worship. Due to this indelible character or mark on our soul, Confirmation may only be received once. Confirmation activates the Holy Spirit’s gifts uniquely bestowed on the individual for use in building up the Body of Christ and helps the confirmed to discern and experience the Spirit’s actions in their life.
Last week, we contemplated God’s gift of His Son, Jesus Christ to us in the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist. The Eucharist is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus given to us as true food and drink to feed our bodies and cultivate our souls. We refer to this as the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, his very Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity given to us under the appearance of bread and wine in Holy Communion.
The Sacrament of Holy Eucharist is the Radiating Center of our Catholic faith. It is the sacrifice of Calvary made present to us each time we participate in the celebration of Mass. The Eucharist brings us into intimate union with Christ and through him, into loving communion with one another, including the Communion of Saints (all those who have lived before us in faith and have gone home to the Lord). In this way, we form what Saint Paul describes as “one body in Christ” (Romans 12:5).
The Sacrament of Holy Eucharist completes Christian Initiation. “Those who have been raised to the dignity of the royal priesthood by Baptism and configured more deeply to Christ by Confirmation participate with the whole community in the Lord’s own sacrifice by means of the Eucharist” (CCC: 1322). It is the gift of Jesus himself which God has given to us as a source of God’s love, grace, and mercy. Through the gift of the Eucharist, God helps us live more fully as Christ’s disciples in this life and leads us to eternal life.
Here are a few video clips from trusted Catholic sources which offer more insight into the Sacraments of Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation to assist you in prayerful reflection on these gifts of God’s love and mercy.
- Fr. Michael Himes, Professor of Theology, Boston College: Catholics: Why We are a Sacramental People, approximately 30 minutes.
- Fr. Stephen Bell, CSP: Sacraments 201: Eucharist (What We Believe), BustedHalo.com, Approximately 9 ½ min.
- Fr. Dave Dwyer, CSP: Sacraments: 101: Eucharist (How We Receive), BustedHalo.com. 5 min.
- Fr. Dave Dwyer, CSP: Sacraments: 101: Baptism (Why We Baptize), BustedHalo.com. Approximately 6 ½ min.
- Bishop Robert Barron: Bishop Barron on the Sacrament of Confirmation, WordOnFire.org. Approximately 9 ½ min.
- Fr. Dave Dwyer, CSP: Sacraments 101: Confirmation (Why We’re Confirmed), BustedHalo.com. 6 minutes.
The Sacraments of Healing
The Sacraments of Healing (Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick) offer God’s love and mercy through the forgiveness of our sins, as well as spiritual and often physical healing. Consider a love so pure and deep that God will always be willing to heal and forgive you.
Reconciliation (also referred to as Confession or Penance) is a sacramental celebration in which a person, through the power of God’s mercy and forgiveness, is reconciled with God and the community.
Sin is an act, a thought, a word, a deed, or an omission that a person commits with full awareness and with full free consent of the will, which injures the person's relationship with God and others. A Mortal Sin is a serious sin that destroys the person’s relationship with God and others. A Venial Sin is a less serious sin that injures the person’s relationship with God and others. Over time, repeatedly committing venial sins without receiving Reconciliation can lead to a serious rupture in our relationship with God. To avoid such a serious injury to our relationship with God and others, the Church encourages us to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation at least once a year, though frequent reception of this sacrament every month or two will help to keep us on the path of true discipleship.
Reconciliation is a sign of God’s endless mercy and willingness to forgive; a sign that God absolutely forgives the sinner. The first step in the Sacrament of Reconciliation is the admission of sinfulness for it requires that the person feel a genuine, heartfelt sorrow for having sinned and for rejecting God’s love and trust. Absolution —God’s forgiveness spoken to us by the priest in the Sacrament of Reconciliation— restores the life of grace within us, brings us into right relationship with God, and reconciles us with the Church community.
In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the priest is bound by the Seal of Confession to preserve trust of confession and to maintain confidentiality of everything the penitent says during Confessions. He can never share or refer to what was confessed even with the penitent outside of the confessional under the risk of excommunication.
Anointing of the Sick is a Sacrament that asks God’s grace upon an elderly or sick person to offer them forgiveness of sins (spiritual healing) as well as physical and emotional healing. Through this sacrament, Christ strengthens the person in their suffering and offers his love and peace as they heal or prepare to transition from this life to eternal life.
Our Catholic faith assures us that, in the case of serious illness or advanced age and fragility, life is not necessarily preserved at all costs. When someone faces a serious illness or is quite elderly, decisions about procedures and treatments may be brought into prayerful consideration, weighing the risks verses benefits and potential outcomes, to determine a course of action in full understanding that this life is not all God has in store for us. Knowing that we are mortal and will not leave this earthly life alive, we trust the Holy Spirit to guide us as we give ourselves into God’s loving care. Christ, through his suffering, death, and resurrection enters into our suffering with us and is present in death to journey with us to everlasting life.
Anointing of the Sick (often referred to as the Sacrament of the Sick, Extreme Unction or “last rites”) is not only for someone at the point of death. Anointing of the Sick is for anyone who is in danger of death from sickness or old age; anyone facing surgery or treatment for an illness; or anyone in failing health.
Here are a few video clips from trusted Catholic sources which offer more insight into the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick to assist you in prayerful reflection on these gifts of God’s love and mercy.
- Fr. Dave Dwyer, CSP: Sacraments 101: Penance (Why We Confess), BustedHalo.com. 5 minutes
- Fr. Dave Dwyer, CSP: Sacraments 101: Anointing of the Sick (Who It’s For), BustedHalo.com. Approximately 6 ½ minutes
Scripture and Questions for Reflection
Over this next week, read John 3:16-17, Luke 15:11-24 and Romans 5:1-10.
Consider how in Baptism, God adopts us into His family; in the Eucharist, God feeds and nurtures us with the body and blood of His Son, Jesus Christ; and in Confirmation, God strengthens us with His Holy Spirit.
Spend some quiet time reflecting on God’s unconditional love for you. Saint John, the Evangelist, used the Greek term, Agape to refer to God’s pure, self-gift of love for His people. Agapic love is a deep, unconditional love that is given without strings and that never counts the cost of loving you. It is a love that will never coerce you to respond but continuously pursues you and invites you into deeper relationship. Allow yourself time to feel God’s great unfettered love for you. Reflect on how such a love nourishes you and evokes a loving response from you. Consider a love so great that God will always forgive you; will never cease to offer you his presence, his peace, and his mercy.
Join us in praying these prayers:
who art in Heaven,
hallowed be Thy name;
Thy Kingdom come,
Thy will be done
on earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
You have promised to forgive us when we turn to you in repentance.
Trusting in you alone for new life,
we ask for your mercy.
We offer ourselves to you anew,
laying aside our selfishness and sin,
asking that you remove from us everything
that would stand in the way of our faithfulness to you.
Forgive us, Lord,
and free us for joyful obedience,
through the grace of Jesus Christ our Lord.
Reflect on your relationship with God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. What does knowing God’s deep and unconditional love for you mean for your life? How might you share it with others?
Additional Questions for Reflection:
- How have you encountered God’s love in the Sacrament of Reconciliation? Is it the first thing you think of when you consider this sacrament. If not, why might this be?
- In Baptism, you are adopted by God and welcomed into the Catholic community of faith. You share in Christ’s roles of priest, prophet, and king. What do these roles mean for how you pray? How you worship? How you witness to God?
- God offers healing and forgiveness in the sacraments of Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick. Consider how healing may take the form of spiritual renewal rather than physical cure. How might this be challenging at times?
Some Additional Prayers:
A Baptismal Prayer
in your love you have called us to know you,
led us to trust you,
and bound our lives with yours.
Surround us with your love,
protect us from evil.
Fill us with your Holy Spirit and
receive us into the family of your church
that we may walk in the way of Christ,
and grow in the knowledge of your love.
Holy Spirit and Seat of Wisdom
A Prayer by Pope Saint John Paul II
Holy Spirit and Seat of Wisdom
help us in the great endeavor that we are carrying out
to meet on a more and more mature way
our brothers and sisters in the faith.
Through all the means of knowledge,
of mutual respect, of love,
may we be able to rediscover gradually the divine plan.
Teach us constantly the ways that lead to unity.
Help us all to proclaim Christ and reveal the power of God
and the wisdom of God hidden in His Cross.
How greatly I desire to entrust to You
all the difficult problems of the societies, systems, and states—
problems that cannot be solved with hatred, war, and self-destruction,
but only by peace, justice, and respect for the
rights of people and nations. Amen.
Act of Contrition (traditional)
O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee;
I detest all my sins because of thy just punishments,
but most of all because they offend Thee, my God,
who are all good and deserving of all my love.
I firmly resolve with the help of Thy grace to sin no more
and to avoid the near occasion of sin. Amen.
Act of Contrition (alternate form)
My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart.
In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good,
I have sinned against you whom I should love above all things.
I firmly intend, with your help,
to do penance,
to sin no more,
and to avoid whatever leads me to sin.
Our Savior Jesus Christ suffered and died for us. In his name, my God, have mercy. Amen.
The Examen is a beautiful way to prayerfully reflect on God’s love in your life and to reset your path of discipleship each day.
- Pray for light. Ask the Holy Spirit to illuminate your day so you can view it through God’s eyes.
- Nurture gratitude. Thank God for the gift of the day, the blessings that enriched you, as well as the challenges that stimulated growth within you.
- Review the day. Invite the Holy Spirit to help you look carefully and honestly at the events of the day.
- Face your shortcomings. Accept that there were times you followed Christ’s path well, and times you strayed and chose sin. Ask God to forgive you.
- Look toward a new day. Ask God to strengthen and heal you so that you may start fresh tomorrow.
Saint Ignatius Loyola