The essence of Christian Faith is to encounter Jesus. Indeed the fourfold Gospel is a record of personal encounters with the Lord: the man born blind, Mary of Magdala, the good thief all directly encountered the healing and forgiving love of Jesus that changed their lives.
But what of us today? Do we not also require Jesus’ intimate and restoring touch? The answer is yes, of course, but he no longer walks among us. True, but while he no longer walks among us; he does dwell among us sacramentally.
Let’s’ take a look at that word, sacrament. It is one of the words that we use so often that we don’t really think about what it means. Remember your catechism? A sacrament is a visible sign of an invisible reality. Take love for example. Love is invisible, but it is made visible by kindness, consideration, a hug. All three are signs or sacraments of the invisible love that exists.
And, what about the great invisible reality of God the Father? Jesus is the sacrament of the Father, the first sacrament…”To have seen me is to have seen the Father.” (John 14:9) But Jesus is no longer among us, so is there some kind of a sign or sacrament of Jesus? He revealed that when he spoke to the blinded St. Paul struck down on the Road to Damascus…”Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4.)
For Paul the answer was clear. The Christians he had been persecuting were somehow the Body of Christ. Jesus’ continuing presence in his Body, the Church, was further emphasized in the description of the Last Judgment in Matthew: “in so far as you did this to one of these least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.” (Matt 25:40)
So how do we encounter Jesus today? It is through his Body, the Church. We encounter the healing and forgiving love of Jesus and of the Father through the sacraments of the Church. Each sacrament is a personal saving act of Christ in the form of a visible act of the Church.
As we journey toward Easter we will consider how Jesus made sure that each of us could continue to experience personally his healing and reconciling love through the sacraments.
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