Sacrament


Greetings! I started a new blog called The Ever Blessed this past Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Check out its latest post. I will no longer be blogging @ Shmuelson. Godspeed and Ave Maria!

Venerate my sanctuary, says the Lord our God (Leviticus 19:30). Why should we? Well, first off, because He says so. It is His will. And it is our duty as His people, to follow His will. Yet, for those of us that need to understand why we need to obey Him before we obey Him (Lord, have mercy), in venerating God’s sanctuary, we worship Him. Honor given to a type passes to the prototype.

As tactile beings with senses, we need to have this sort of dynamic in worshipping the invisible God. In the Mosaic covenant, the people of God fulfilled this commandment by building and adorning the tabernacle and temple, by carrying before them in a worshipful procession the ark of the covenant (which was also richly adorned), and by praying towards Jerusalem—each of these forms of veneration being appropriate to worshipping God’s particular presence in the Holy of Holies. In the new and everlasting covenant, the people of God fulfill this commandment in ways that are appropriate to God’s particular presence in His Incarnate and  Eternal Word, Jesus Christ. We venerate His virgin mother whose womb became His tabernacle; whose flesh became His flesh—the means by which He dwelt among us and accomplished our salvation. We venerate His saints in Heaven, who attained salvation through the infused dwelling of the Holy Spirit within each of them (being therefore temples of that same Holy Spirit). And, we venerate His tabernacles in the Churches and Cathedrals where He now dwells among us “to the end of the age” in the Most Holy Eucharist. We venerate His sanctuary, and therefore offer Him worship that is pleasing to Him

We will go into his tabernacle: we will adore in the place where his feet stood. Arise, O Lord, into your resting place: you and the ark, which you have sanctified. Let your priests be clothed with justice: and let your saints rejoice.

Psalm 132

Do you believe in the Incarnation of the Word of God? Do you concede that God worked His plan of salvation through matter, that is, through the hypostatic taking on of human flesh? Do you believe that through that same matter, the Divine power was manifested in miracles and the forgiveness of sins? Yes? Then you already have a belief structure invested in sacramentalism. In other words, you already agree with a mode of God’s grace and presence being conferred through a physical and sacramental sign. Surprise! 😉

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

John 20:21-23

Where is that in Protestantism? Where is that even referenced or explained in the Protestant faiths? To understand this scripture better, let’s consider its context. This event occurs after Mary Magdalene encounters a man outside of the empty tomb of our Lord on the third day following His suffering and death. This man, whom she mistook for a gardener, turns out to be Christ and once she realizes this she cries out “Rabbo’ni!” which is Hebrew for “my teacher”. And being her Teacher, sure enough the first words out of our risen Lord’s mouth in this gospel account are words of teaching. “Do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go tell MY BRETHREN and say to them, I am ascending to my Father, and YOUR Father, to my God and YOUR God.”

There is a paradigm shift here in Jesus’ relationship with His Apostles, one that explains the ultimate reality of the power of His resurrection and the Church’s authority to forgive sins. Not only did the incarnation of Christ allow man to share in God’s friendship (John 15:15-17), but His resurrection allows us to be born anew as sons of the Father and brothers of the Son thereby becoming participants in the life of the Trinity. What is the life of the Trinity? It is the life of love (1 John 4:7-8), and therefore reconciliation—the forgiveness of sins.

Let’s return to the verse in question. Within the aforementioned context of becoming sons of God the Father and brethren of God the Son, our Lord appears to His apostles and gives them the gift of the Holy Spirit. Note that Christ is appearing to the 12 here before the Holy Spirit descends at Pentecost. There is a more specified gift of authority being given to the Apostles here then there will be in the more general or universal (or Catholic) gift to the entire Church at the Pentecost event. “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Why did the Father send His Son into the world? In brief, to reconcile a fallen humanity to Himself. What power did the Son have in order to do so? The authority on earth to forgive sins (Mark 2:5-12). And with that, He breathed on them and said, “Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

Again, I have to ask, where is that in Protestantism? The reality is, it’s not. It does exist, however, in……drumroll please……Catholicism. Throughout history, the gift of the Son’s reconciling authority has been preserved in the Catholic Church through ordination of her clergy—the successors of the apostles. And that authority, that gift of the Holy Spirit to forgive sins by virtue of Christ’s authority on earth to do so, and by virtue of His Sonship and ours, has not diminished in its capacity or power. It is the same power. The power of God’s only begotten Son: our Master, our Rabbi, and our Brother.

Well that’s it for the first two parts of this series. In the next section we will discuss participation in the life of Christ via baptism, sharing in His sufferings, and through Holy Communion. So stay tuned.

So you’ve given up on being in schism. Your misgivings and disappointments with Protestantism have reached their limit, and you realize the only road out is the one that leads to Rome. Relatives, friends, and even mentors have shown their teeth at you. Yet, you know that faith working through love means everything. After all, God is love. You respond out of meekness and express, in word and deed, that your choice to follow this specific yet universal path is one informed—not by inexperience—but by hands-on, doctrine-relevant, history-appropriate, and truth-loving devotion to God.

Now, you’ve reached that telltale point of resolution. You’ve googled the local parish and have written down the phone number to the director of the RCIA program. Or, maybe you haven’t gotten that far at this point. Maybe the stages of inquiry you’ve been involved in have only gone so far as defending Catholicism on theology blogs and in social circles, or finally finding common ground with a friend whose own conversion to the Catholic faith has started to make more sense to you. Yet with all your questions feasibly answered, there is still something holding you back. At this point, what is stopping you? To be brutally frank, what are you thinking?! I know what you are thinking. Because, at one point, I was in your shoes and thought what you are thinking. As a matter of fact, I still find myself “relapsing” into those reserved thoughts. And I’ve converted.

Here’s where the title of this post comes in. As an obvious reference to the beloved Mary Poppins song, love is the sugar and doctrine is the medicine for those who sojourn on the road to Catholicism—with all their doubts and insecurities. To be more specific, there is one thing that I keep in my heart as a reminder when I face those moments of reservation on certain Catholic doctrines… when I pick up the bible and Tobit seems strange and unfamiliar, when I don’t meditate on the mystery of the Assumption of Mary with the same belief and fervor as I would the Annunciation, when I start picking and choosing in a passive or active way, which claims made by the Catholic Church are expendable, I call to mind Love. Love that said His Holy Spirit would lead His bride the Church into all truths (John 16:13). That the gates of Hell shall not overcome her (Matthew 16:18). That She will speak with His voice (Luke 10:16). That she will have the power to forgive sins (John 20:23). And most importantly, that He will be with Her always, even till the end of the age (Matthew 28:20). Only one Church can holistically claim all of the above, and that is the Catholic Church. All other Churches have at one point said, by word or deed, “the Church has strayed from her Master, she has strayed from the truth. God has thereby abandoned her. Lets split from her. Lets start over and rediscover the true Faith.” But not the Catholic Church. She stands strong and undefiled by any error that would allow the gates of hell itself to overcome her. By the gift of the Holy Spirit’s guidance, she stands infallible, and is indeed guided into all truths.

And that, my brothers and sisters, is the sugar that makes the medicine go down. Medicine is always good for you, but it may not always suit your taste. That’s where love–the universal sweetener–comes in. Your taste was defined by your previous life of Faith. You have a gag reflex whenever something seems unfamiliar (the Pope, nuns, prayers to saints, etc.) but the phenomenon is, that you agree with that unfamiliarity… you agree with it because you know it will heal you. Taste and see that it is good and let it heal you. Let it heal your mind. Run to be initiated into the Catholic Church so you can receive the Eucharist–the medicine of eternal life. Hastily run to receive it, for it is the Lord’s Passover (Exodus 12:11). And if you are converted already, but still find yourself relapsing into your former schismatic self, pray the Rosary. Empty your mind of everything but the Love of God made manifest in the Sacred Mysteries and the truth shall set you free. Peace be with you!

I pray the Divine Office every now and again–though I wish I would more often–and at Matins today, this Psalm stood out to me as having a very eucharistic flavor. In Catholicism and various other Christian traditions, Thursday is set aside in a special way for Eucharistic devotions—since Christ instituted the Eucharist on a Thursday (On the night before He was given up to death…). Here is the Psalm with my comments in red:

Psalm 116:12-19

How can I repay the LORD for all the good done for me?

I will raise the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD. The “cup of salvation” is an obvious allusion to the Blood of Christ of which He said would be poured out unto the forgiveness of sins (Matt. 26:27-28). To “call on the name of the LORD” is also anticipatory of the part of the rite of the Eucharist when the celebrant extends his hands over the bread and the cup and calls on God to “send [His] spirit to come upon these gifts and make them Holy so that they may become for us the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ”

I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people. The Blessed Sacrament, like all Sacraments, is a covenantal and communal oath (or vow). And since we Catholics believe that Heaven and Earth are wedded at the table of the Eucharist, we truly do participate in the “presence of ALL his people”.

Too costly in the eyes of the LORD is the death of his faithful. The Psalmist here is speaking of how it grieves God when His saints are given over to death. In the Eucharist, we give thanks for the triumph over death God brings us through the re-presentation of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.

LORD, I am your servant, your servant, the child of your maidservant; you have loosed my bonds. Obviously for Catholics, whenever the scriptures refer to the Lord’s “maidservant” or “handmaiden” we believe they are speaking of Mary, the mother of God and our mother. St. Thomas Aquinas wrote that in the Eucharist, Mary is especially present. Since Christ received 100% of His human nature from His mother, and since He gives us 100% of Himself in His Body and Blood as well as His Soul and Divinity in the Eucharist, its obvious that our communion with Mary grows as our bonds are loosed through the Sacrifice of Christ.

I will offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the LORD. As most well know, the word Eucharist derives from the Greek for “thanksgiving”. The Psalmist here is of course speaking of the todah (which also translates “to give thanks”) sacrifice of ancient Judaism. The Eucharist is essentially the todah sacrifice fulfilled—as well as all other sacrifices of the Mosaic Covenant.

I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people,

In the courts of the house of the LORD, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Hallelujah! Again, the Eucharist is our Communion with Christ and with the courts of the new Jerusalem—on Earth as it is in Heaven. Hallelujah indeed!

A whole year has passed since my wife and I received our Sacraments of initiation into the Holy Catholic Church. Each day we grow more grateful for the Faith that we have received. It is difficult to imagine how we ever lived without it. It goes without saying that we highly recommend everyone to become part of the Catholic Church. Give her a chance, and she will give you the fullness of truth.

We would like to thank our Father in Christ, Msgr. Tom Welbers for guiding us and receiving us.

We would like to thank our Sponsor and brother, Christopher Morrison.

We would like to thank our friends and family—both on Earth and in Heaven—for their prayers and support.

And we would like to thank God Almighty, who lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen.

Blessed be God.
Blessed be His Holy Name.
Blessed be Jesus Christ, true God and true man.
Blessed be the name of Jesus.
Blessed be His Most Sacred Heart.
Blessed be Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.
Blessed be the Holy Spirit, the paraclete.
Blessed be the great Mother of God, Mary most holy.
Blessed be her holy and Immaculate Conception.
Blessed be her glorious Assumption.
Blessed be the name of Mary, Virgin and Mother.
Blessed be Saint Joseph, her most chaste spouse.
Blessed be God in His angels and in His Saints.

May the heart of Jesus, in the Most Blessed Sacrament, be praised, adored, and loved with grateful affection, at every moment, in all the tabernacles of the world, even to the end of time. Amen.

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