LET US PRAY: Spirit of the Living God, enlighten our minds to know the Truth, strengthen our hearts to accept the Truth and cause us to live for the Truth. Through this Catechesis Corner, restore those who have fallen from the Truth, convince the doubting hearts, clarify the confused minds and lead us all to the fullness of Truth through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
As much as our Lord Jesus Christ preaches holiness, He also instituted the sacrament of his Body and Blood, namely the Holy Eucharist, as means of salvation when on the night he was to suffer, having given thanks, he took bread, broke it and gave it to his disciples saying, take this all of you and eat, for this is my body, which will be given up for you, and same with cup, then added, DO THIS IN MEMORY OF ME. Matthew 26:26-27, Mk 14:22-26, Lk 22:14-23. The necessity of this sacrament as means to salvation cannot be over emphasized. For Saint John, in other to show how important this sacrament is, devoted a full chapter on Jesus’ teaching about it. Jesus’ word “Unless you eat the body of the son of man and drink is blood, you have no life in you, whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood has eternal life and I will raise him on the last day, for my BODY IS TRUE FOOD AND MY BLOOD TRUE DRINK….” John 6:53-57 is a clear indication that no matter how Holy we think we are, we are not clean enough to merit heaven and so, we need to eat purest of food to meet up with the standard of the cleanliness expected in heaven.Our Lord Jesus Christ is not mincing when He said this and His audience understood that He was not, as usual, speaking in parable. It is common that Jesus, after speaking in parable to the people, will later on explain his parable to His Disciples in private, but in this case, no explanation is needed. The word is as clear as it is spoken and so, even after losing huge number of His disciples, the great Master was ready to lose even His Apostles too and so He said “will you go too?” But Peter, with faith said, “to whom shall we go…”.John 6:53-68. This response of Peter to Jesus Christ, shows that Peter is as much confused as others who have left. But he, speaking on behalf of other Apostles, believed in Jesus Christ, not because he understands, but because he, having listened to the seriousness of this word of our Lord Jesus Christ, and knowing he cannot deceive nor be deceived, accepts it as word of eternal life. In the same way, we may not fully grasp the in-debt knowledge of this word of Christ, but he has in many occasions through many confirmed Eucharistic miracles, showed that He truly has spoken the word of eternal life and it is left for us to believe like Peter and other Apostles or leave like many did. The truth remains that at the word of consecration, pronounced by a validly ordained Catholic Priests, the bread becomes true Body of Christ and the wine becomes His Blood. To be saved, our Lord Jesus Christ said we must partake of the Banquet.
The Sacrament of Penance is also called Sacrament of reconciliation because, it is at this sacrament we are reconciled back to God when we sin against him. We, as directed by Apostle James, (James 5:16,) confess our sins to our Bishops or Priests who, being successors of the Apostles, have been given the power to forgive sin or even retain it. (John 20:23). It is through this word of James that we also know that our Lord Jesus Christ instituted the Sacrament of the Anointing of the sick. James 5:14-15. Through this anointing, the sick is prepared to meet Christ before he or she meets death or as Christ wills is recovered back to life. The Holy Order, which is the sacrament in which some men are ordained to the ministerial priesthood to act on behalf of the people before God, was instituted the same day our Lord Jesus Christ instituted the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. He instituted it with the word “do this in memory of me” These words clearly indicate that the Apostles at this moment, received the power to continue this act. Our Lord Jesus Christ instituted Holy Matrimony and raised it to its normal state when he said ” what God has joined together, let no man put asunder.” Matthew 19:6 For Jews, one can divorce, remarry or even marry as many wives as possible. But, the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ as clearly written in Matthew 19:1-9 shows that these practices and beliefs are born out of human greediness, weakness and unwillingness to obey the law of God.
From the above discourse, it is very clear that being a Christian is not just about being a good man, being prayerful, fasting, giving alms and practising virtues. As much as all of these are very important because they are all fruits of the grace and gift we received in the sacraments, they become empty and filthy rags without sacraments. One may then ask, what about those who are not Christians but are virtuous?, I dare not take the place of God by judging what will be their lot, but as far as the Jesus’ teaching, as taught by the Apostles in letters and words, and as interpreted by the Church’s Magisterium is concerned, we cannot by our own merit be saved. Now, the church, so as not to be too judgmental has said, some who for no fault of theirs, did not hear the Gospel but practised Christian virtues can be saved. This is because, as noted in the Catechism of the Catholic church, even when God has bound salvation to the sacrament of baptism, He (God) himself is not bound by this sacrament. CCC 1257. God is rich in mercy and will show mercy on who he will show mercy. Exodus 33:19, Romans 9:15. So, we have to leave that decision solely for God.
Lastly, can one receive all these sacraments and still miss heaven? One thing I find so bizarre in the Scripture is that, it was at the Mass celebrated by our Lord Jesus Christ that Satan induced Judas to betray Him. (John 13:2) and paradoxically, the same food others ate with our Lord Jesus Christ so as to have life that Judas collected from Jesus Christ and was possessed by Devil. The Lord Jesus knowing this, told him to do what he has to do on time. (John 13:21-27). The implication for us is that, our dispositions and readiness to live out what these sacraments stand for in us is very important. Let no one therefore mistake the message of this article to mean that we can do whatever we like in as much as we have received all the above sacraments. No, the simple point this article aims to pass across is that, we cannot for any reason look down on sacraments as mere religious rites or ceremonies, when our Lord Jesus, recognizing our weaknesses, has pointed out that salvation by human merit is impossible, and as such, has, in His benevolence, given the Church these Sacraments that all who receive them may be saved. In all, it is not enough to receive them, we must also justify our faith in the graces they confer on us through our good works. This explains why faith and work are two sides of a coin.(Cf James 2:14-26) Put simply, like faith and work, Christian virtues without Sacraments are empty, and Sacraments without Christian virtues are pure abuses of the Sacraments. May our Lord Jesus Christ, who has called us to be perfect in holiness and has, in His clemency, instituted these Sacraments to aid us in answering the call, continue to bless us. Amen.