No matter what Christian faith tradition you belong to, you probably had a hard time finding a parking place or a seat at your local church today. That’s because Easter Sunday goes to the heart of Christianity. After his sacrifice on Good Friday, Jesus overcame death on Sunday. Because of “Resurrection Sunday,” you and I have been given the opportunity to spend all of eternity with him after our journey in this life comes to an end.
As a Catholic, I have noticed that the two most attended days in the Church year is Christmas and Easter. Even if a person rarely comes to mass during the year, there is something that tugs at their heart to be present with the community of believers on these particular days. That tug in which the believer receives, is known as a “grace” from God. Grace is the free undeserved gift that God gives us to respond to our vocation to become his adopted children. Now, once we have received that grace, it is up to us to accept it. The venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen once said, “After your car is filled with gasoline, it will not drive itself. Grace will move you only when you want it to move you, and only when you let it move you.”
The view of grace is one that is seen as a relationship between the individual believer and Christ (Catechism of Catholic Church, #2003). Thus, an increase in grace means a growth in one’s relationship with the Lord. Grace is obtained through a process of a divine-human encounter and devine-human cooperation (CCC #2002). The normal way of receiving grace is through the Sacraments. A sacrament is an outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace. St. Augustine wrote, “People cannot be united in any religion, whether it be true or false, unless they are brought together through a common sharing of some visible signs or sacraments; and the power of these sacraments is so effective that scorning them is considered sacrilegious.”
Through the sacrament of Baptism, grace enters the soul. If a person, through no fault of there own, is not baptized, he still may receive grace. The Church teaches that everyone who reaches the age of reason is given sufficient grace by God to enable that person, if he has the will, to lift his soul in love toward God and by doing so, receive from God “sanctifying grace.” Through the sacraments, each encounter has God taking the initiative by making the offer of grace (ex opere operato; cf. CCC #1128). The believer then accepts the offer and opens himself up to the intervention of the divine (ex opere operantis).
“God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good” (Gen 1:31; CCC #339). This reality provides the basis for the Church’s sacramental view of life. In the sacraments, the materials used are water, bread, wine, oil, and human speech (words). These are the basic elements of life. The seven sacraments of the Church are Baptism, Reconciliation, Eucharist, Confirmation, Marriage, Anointing of the Sick, and Holy Orders. All of the sacraments give “sanctifying grace.” Baptism is where it gets initiated; it is restored through Confession when it is lost because of a mortal sin, or it increases it if the persons sins are not mortal. The other sacraments all increase sanctifying grace and each has it’s own special function as well.
In the celebration of the sacraments, Jesus Christ is active in the administration and the reception of each one. Jesus Christ is the focus of our attention in each of the sacraments; not the Priest, not the individual, and not even the Church herself.
As a Christian, once we are awakened to God’s grace, let’s not let it go to waste. Let us begin and then continue to seek, receive, and cooperate with his grace. Through studying and reflecting on Sacred Scripture and receiving the sacraments, we will be able to receive the graces we need to increase and grow our relationship with the Lord. And instead of just showing up for mass every once-in-a-while, we will begin to want to worship him every Sunday. To gather with the members of the “body of Christ,” in communion with the head, Jesus.
Until next time, God bless.