Q: Why do we receive some sacraments more than others?
A: In religious education, we learn the truth about the sacraments, namely, that Jesus instituted each sacrament and that they are “efficacious signs of God’s grace.” For many, the word efficacious may be a difficult word to understand. Let me put it this way: “The Holy Spirit happens personally and communally” in our life at the life-changing moment of reception of the sacrament. Each sacrament sanctifies us, strengthens us, and also instructs us.
We receive Baptism only once because Baptism itself places an indelible mark on your soul and mine, one which neither can be erased nor replaced. So too, also, with the Sacrament of Confirmation, which is the third of the three Sacraments of Initiation which we receive. This prepares us to live out our faith as adults, as well as to share the Good News and Truth of Jesus Christ.
The Sacrament of Matrimony, as well as the Sacrament of Holy Orders, are sacraments of communion. In marriage, we have the love of Jesus Christ with his bride, the Church. Here two people become one. In the Sacrament of Holy Orders, an indelible mark is placed on a man as he “puts on Christ.” He serves the people of God in Jesus’ name in word and in service at the altar, whether a deacon assisting the priest or the priest himself who through the grace of the Holy Spirit effects the Body and Blood of Christ at the altar. The third level of Holy Orders is the bishop himself who has the fullness of the priesthood as a direct successor of the first Apostles.
The Sacraments of Healing we may receive multiple times, such as the Sacrament of Penance (certainly, we should participate in this sacrament frequently), as well as the Anointing of the Sick, which can be received for numerous reasons.
The Eucharist is the central sacrament of the Church for it is the true Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ. How blessed we are to have opportunity to receive frequently Our Lord Jesus Christ, for he is our Lord and Savior for all ages and remains with us always.
So, as you can see, each sacrament is instituted by Jesus Christ and provides us with instruction and purpose through the graces received intended for our reception. Each sacrament bears witness to our common Christian pilgrimage. There are those sacraments which may be received frequently by the nature and the purpose of the sacrament.
Q: Why do we go through the whole Mass instead of just receiving the Eucharist?
A: That certainly would shorten the celebration, wouldn’t it? We participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in two parts, The Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. At the Liturgy of the Word, we learn about the mysteries of our faith through the revealed Word of God in the Old and New Testament. This sacred time at Mass teaches us a lot about ourselves through the lives of others and of the very instruction of Jesus Christ in his own words, such as in the Gospel stories. The Liturgy of the Word trains our gaze directly to the central point of the Mass: the Real Presence of Jesus Christ’s Body and Blood in the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Your question correctly focuses on the very reception of Jesus at Communion, for all that occurs at Mass is intended to direct our attention to the Paschal Mystery. After hearing the Word of God and allowing it to echo in our hearts, we are prepared to receive Jesus’ Body and Blood, and consequently ready to go on our Christian mission to live the Truth of Jesus.
Q: Why do you believe in God?
A: That is a question that has been asked throughout the ages. We know that faith is a gift from God. And that very gift of God is meant to be nurtured in our lives, especially through prayer and the reception of the sacraments. (Yes, I tried to tie all three questions into the answer for the third question!)
From the moment I was very small I believed in God, but it was necessary for my faith in God to grow. Moreover, my love for Jesus deepened, as I continued to progress in my knowledge that Jesus is always with me and has given his life for me in order that I may be one with him.
I believe in God, because I lovingly respond to God’s invitation to believe in him. There is nothing magical about this for it is completely real. I love God dearly, and I wish to learn more about him each and every day, and I do so by doing my very best, through God’s grace, to imitate him. My belief in God is not governed by “have to,” but instead, “I want to.” Jesus invites, and I respond.
We all are aware of our family members and friends who possess varying degrees of faith, from what may seem to be very little to an extraordinary amount. I believe in God, of course, as he has invited me into his life, and I respond with inviting God into mine.
As you and I have learned from our relationships with family and friends, we want to have faith in them as well. And at times, it takes much work to foster or grow those relationships. In the end it is that love and friendship which governs our belief in one another and, most importantly, our belief in God. As we read in the Gospel according to John, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son” (Jn 3: 16).
How can you and I not wish to learn more about our best friend, Jesus, who gave his entire life in order that you and I may spend all eternity with him? I believe in God because I love God. I believe in God because I want to learn more about God. I believe in God because God wants me to dwell with him forever, and it begins with you and me allowing God into our lives now.
As we venture as fellow pilgrims in the autumn splendor of the Ohio Valley, may we keep each other in prayer as we participate in those sacred gifts of the sacraments of the Church, drawing us together to greater faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
To “Ask the Bishop,” address questions to Joseph M. Taylor, catechetical consultant in the Diocese of Steubenville Office of Christian Formation and Schools – via U.S. mail, P.O. Box 969, Steubenville, OH 43952; email, email@example.com; or telephone, (740) 282-3631.