Sacraments: Spiritual Food | Faith Friday
Without food, we starve. What we eat is arguably the most important determinant of our health and well being as humans. Perhaps this is why our Lord comes to us in the simple form of bread. He sustains us in the way we are most fundamenally sustained: food.
For the past few weeks, Pope Francis has been focusing his weekly teaching on the Church's Sacraments. Sacraments are outward signs of real, inward grace and there are seven of them: Baptism, Reconciliation, Eucharist, Confirmation, Matrimony, Holy Orders and Annointing of the Sick. As Catholics we believe that while God doesn't need Sacraments to give us grace (God gives us grace all the time: in a person we meet, in a scripture verse that moves us, in the sudden motivation we feel to complete a good work), God has ordained that certain graces be imparted through our participation in outward expressions. And because God has ordained them, we must partake in them.
What this means is that when we are baptized, we aren't just participating in some symbolic ritual. When we are baptized, we actually receive salvific grace from God, precisely because God has ordained that we do this thing, and therefore receive that grace. If God had not ordained that doing said action would result in said grace, then the ceremonies we practice would be simply that: ceremonies. We only partake in these things because we believe God has given us the gift of outward, tangible expressions and celebrations of certain special graces God imparts to us.
And because God has given us special graces in the practice of Sacraments, because God has given us this special food, we have to eat it to be Spiritually nourished! With Sacraments, our spiritual diet matures from the basics that keep us alive, to the nutritionally dense "foods" that help us thrive. Most of the Sacraments are experienced just once (and most people won't experience all of them). But Reconciliation and Eucharist (and Annointing of the Sick, in many cases) are experienced over and over again, and so we are nourished regularly by the spiritual food of these Sacraments.
Consider attending the Sacrament of Reconciliation this weekend and feeding your soul with God's forgiveness. God offers us forgiveness freely, and gives us the gift of Confession knowing that as humans our sensory experiences are crucial. This weekend, receive the Eucharist and feed your soul with Jesus' real presence, because while God offers us Himself everywhere, He has given us senses because we are physical creatures, and He knows that our physical perception of things is powerful and immediate. God hasn't created people for the Sacraments; He's created Sacraments for people!
Rather than thinking about Sacraments as a to-do list for being Catholic, think of them as God's celebration of our senses! God gives us this tremendous gift of celebrating our nature as physical creatures. And just as we must take part in the action of eating physical food to stay alive and healthy, God gives us special actions to consume spiritual food in order to stay spiritually nourished. What a great gift! And what a good God we have.