At our Baptism, the priest anointed us with sacred chrism and said that we were now identified with Jesus in his roles as priest, prophet, and king. As a priest, we are to offer sacrifice and we do this by participating in the Eucharist, offering both ourselves and the sacrifice of Jesus to the Father. As a prophet, we are to witness to the good news bringing peace and justice to all we meet. And as a king, we are to share in Jesus’ role of ordering all things toward the Father in the Holy Spirit. This honor applies to all the baptized and is often referred to as the priesthood of the faithful. It points to the dignity all share as children of God.
“I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.”
With these words a man and a woman begin a journey together, and their lives, and those of their families and friends, will never be the same. Nor will that of the faith-community, for the exchange of marriage vows affects not only one man and one woman, but their parents and siblings, their extended families and their faith-communities. It changes their legal status and identity for now they will be a new family within society and within the Church. That’s how far reaching is the effect of committed love. Marriage is one of the most usual, and yet distinct, things two people can do.
Sickness, accidents, age—all things we have faced or will face as human beings. It’s just part of life. Life isn’t perfect and things happen. And sometimes they happen very unexpectedly.
When the Son of God became human of the Virgin Mary, he entered this imperfect world as Jesus of Nazareth. His life was not noticeably different from anyone else’s; at least not at first. And he, too, experienced human weakness. There were days when he suffered like us, especially at the end of his life. And so did his mother. After all, Simeon had predicted that a sword would pierce her heart. So, Jesus and Mary were not strangers to suffering.
“Bless me Father for I have. . . . ” Perhaps one of the hardest things we do is admit to our own wrongdoing. It’s hard to say that we have sinned—and be willing to turn our life around to avoid that sin in the future. But we know that it is spiritually and psychologically healthy to do so. So where’s the hang up?
I like to eat. Or, rather, I like to dine. There’s a difference I am told, and I like the distinction. We eat to stay alive. So, most often, breakfast and lunch are a matter of eating—my main goal is to take in the necessary nourishment to stay alive. But supper is different. Then I prefer to dine, because I enjoy gathering with my community or going out with family or friends to share life together over a meal. There is conversation and friendship, as well as food and drink. It becomes an experience that is more than just fulfilling a biological need. It becomes a social event.
It has been said that Confirmation is a sacrament looking for a theology. The implication is that we don’t have a clear understanding of what it is about, especially since it has been separated from Baptism and often received after first Communion. But that isn’t entirely accurate. There are issues, I admit, but we still have a pretty good idea of what the sacrament is about.
We commonly say that the sacraments are signs that effect what they signify. That’s a fancy way of saying that they do what they say they do. When we pray the words—and do the prescribed actions using the appropriate objects—we bring about a promised result. Sounds kind of like magic, but it isn’t a question of magic, but of faith, since the "automatic" aspect of the sacrament is the promise of Jesus to do something wonderful in our lives. This presumes a certain integrity or truthfulness in the sacraments. We can trust them because they are more than just human words and actions: they are the love of God active in human life.
I have a confession to make: I haven’t been to Confession in 30 years. And it isn’t from a lack of respect for the sacrament. It isn’t out of pride. I’m just chicken. My last foray into Reconciliation is still etched in my mind: Standing outside the confessional, I was a panicked 11-year-old—hands sweating, head spinning, legs shaking in my gray corduroys. The priest grew irritated quickly. Little wonder: I could barely spit out a sentence. The act of pleading guilty to my crimes was just too awkward, too daunting. So I never went back.
Think for a moment of something stunningly beautiful that has ever taken you completely out of yourself. Perhaps it was a newborn baby or a thunderstorm, a breaching whale or a magnificent symphony. Try to remember how it made you feel in the moment when you stopped thinking and just let yourself be lifted up and carried away.