Sacraments are the visible signs of God’s love. He first revealed his love for all generations in the Covenant set with Abraham. He reinforced His promise with Moses and King David and Himself became that promise of salvation fulfilled in Jesus. By His humanity, Christ, in a special way, showed us what sacrament really means – God giving life to all people.
Jesus’ whole earthly life was one encounter – one of building loving relationships with others – and in so doing, giving praise and worship to the Father. By His very example, Jesus left us the values necessary for salvation. As seen in the Scriptures, His encounters were ones of welcoming, healing, listening, and reconciling. His actions showed us how to celebrate, to share, to make commitments, to serve. It is precisely these values which the Church has put in ritual form (sacraments) in order to share in and celebrate God’s life.
In this manner, Christ Himself, as a living symbol of the Father’s infinite love, is sacrament. He entrusted this mission to His Church, and so, the Church too, is sacrament. Since the Church is a living community, each member of that community is called to continually encounter Christ as sacrament, and by responding to this call, becomes sacrament for others, that is, a sign of God’s continued presence.
The sacraments, then, are personal and dynamic encounters in the relationship between the Lord and His people. To signify these encounters with Christ at key moments of our lives, very simple and fundamental elements of our existence were chosen. God, Christ, and the Church become visible in water, bread, wine and oil, in the touch of a hand, in the sound of a yes, in a confession of guilt. These signs clearly highlight Christ’s saving presence in our community.
These encounters, as with any meeting, are two-sided. The sacraments are a sign of God’s faithfulness. To meet God, we come with faith in order to strengthen and build up this faith. It is an on-going process which allows us to grow in our relationship with God and with others.
Sacraments are truly community celebrations. As Christ reaches out to people through His Church, so we, as this Church, respond publicly to our beliefs. We celebrate past, present and future events by remembering the Paschal Mystery – the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ – which points to His saving presence that is happening now and leads us to participate in the fullness of eternal life.