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SACRAMENTS

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(This material is mostly based on “The Sacraments” by Inos Biffi (1993)

Introduction

The Sacraments are visible acts performed by the Church – such as immersion in water, anointing with oil and celebration of a meal of bread and wine.

But the Sacraments are not only outward actions performed by persons. They are the actions of Jesus who instituted them and who makes them have an effect when we perform them. Together with the Holy Spirit, he is present when the Sacraments are celebrated – just as he is present every time the Church gathers to pray.

On the cross, Jesus gave himself for the salvation of the human race. Through the Sacraments, he perpetuates his gift of himself and our encounter with him is made possible. In the Sacraments, we take part in the passion of Christ, in order to share in his resurrection.

Historically, the form in which we have the Sacraments today was not given to us directly from Jesus. Their rituals have been shaped and revised by the Church over the centuries and, most recently, since the Second Vatican Council in the mid 1960’s. However, all seven Sacraments are rooted and grounded in the teachings and actions of Jesus himself.


BAPTISM

It is necessary for us as sinners to be born again “of water and the Spirit” Jesus said [John 3:5]. For this purpose, he has established the sacrament of Baptism. The one who administers this sacrament immerses the person being baptized in the baptismal font or pours water on the person’s head, saying “I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit”.

In order to be baptized, it is necessary to believe in the Gospel. A baby is baptized on the strength of his/her parents’ faith. As they grow up, their faith will become their own personal faith, and they will profess it as their own.

When we are baptized, we become children of God and a new creation – we begin to be part of a new family, the Church. The stain of original sin from Adam is removed. Every one of our own personal sins is pardoned and it is now possible for us to enter into the kingdom of heaven.

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Baptism of Seika Okada & Natsumi Nambu (May 10, 1992)


CONFIRMATION

Baptism is perfected by the sacrament of Confirmation, which is usually administered by a bishop. He anoints the foreheads of those being confirmed with chrism, which is oil mixed with a fragrance to make a balm. During the anointing, he says, “Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.” He then offers them the same blessing that the risen Lord gave his disciples “Peace be with you.”

Like Baptism, Confirmation imprints on our souls a permanent sign of belonging to Jesus Christ, since in this sacrament the fullness of the Holy Spirit is poured out on us. With the grace of the Spirit – which descended upon the apostles on the day of Pentecost, received already in Baptism – we become mature Christians. Our likeness to Christ grows and becomes more intimately a part of his Church.

Confirmation renews and strengthens our commitment to be courageous witnesses of the Gospel in the world, both through words and through our actions.

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Confirmation of Shoma Liliefeldt at St. Rose of Lima (May 30, 2004)


RECONCILIATION

When he appeared to the disciples on Easter evening, Jesus gave to them and their successors the Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of sins – now referred to as the “Sacrament of Reconciliation”. He said “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven” [John 20:23]. During his life, Jesus himself had forgiven many sins such as those of the paralyzed man and those of Zaccheus whom he made come down from the tree.

To obtain forgiveness, we must be truly sorry for the sins, confessing them with honesty to the priest, who absolves them in the name of Christ. And we must make reparation of our sins, especially through acts of charity and the resolution not to commit them again. The forgiveness of sins is God’s greatest cause for rejoicing.

EUCHARIST

In the celebration of the Eucharist (or Mass), Jesus gives us his body and blood, as food and drink. He established this sacrament at the Last Supper, which he shared with his disciples on the night before he died. When he broke the bread, he said “Take and eat; this is my body, which is given for you.” When he blessed the wine, he said “Take and drink: this is the chalice of my blood poured out for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven. Do this in memory of me.” When we celebrate the Eucharist, we perform an act of obedience and faithfulness to this command of our Lord.

At Mass, through prayer and the working of the Holy Spirit, the bread and the wine are changed, or “transubstantiated”, into the body and blood of Jesus. In this way, we are united to the Paschal sacrifice offered by Christ on the cross to his Father for our salvation – so that we too receive the strength to love all others like brothers and sisters.

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First Communion of Nea at Our Lady of Fatima with parents and godparents(April 27, 2003)

The celebration of the Eucharist gathers the faithful, especially on Sunday when we commemorate the resurrection of the Lord. The priest presides at the sacrament, since he has received the power to do so from Jesus himself.  The congregation of the faithful are not simply spectators; they all participate actively and consciously. The Mass, like all liturgy of the Church, involved the whole people of God – in this rite, all believers are bound together. But not everyone can receive Holy Communion. Only those who live in friendship with God – and are not prevented by serious sin – can approach the table of the Body of Christ, in anticipation of the heavenly banquet.


ANOINTING OF THE SICK

During his life, Jesus comforted and healed many who were sick. He established a special sacrament for those who are seriously ill because of disease or aging – now referred to as the “Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick”. The priest administers this sacrament. He anoints the body of the sick person with sacred oil while saying this prayer: “through this holy anointing, may the Lord in his love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit. Amen. May the Lord who frees you from sin save you and raise you up. Amen.”

This sacrament, when received with faith, gives the sick person the comfort of the Lord risen from death. It gives him serenity and trust so that he doesn’t allow himself to be pulled down by his suffering. Instead, he is able to unite his suffering from illness with Jesus’ passion and offer it for the good of the whole Church. Through this holy anointing, God will grant the sick person the forgiveness of sins and will prepare him for the passage to eternal life; God is also able to restore the grace of health.


HOLY ORDERS

The sacrament of Holy Orders is conferred on men through the bishop’s laying on of hands and pronouncing of the consecratory prayer. Through this sacrament, some of the faithful receive the commission to preside over the Christian community, to preach the Gospel, and to celebrate Mass in the name and with the power of Jesus. The sacrament of Holy Orders, which (like baptism and confirmation) imprints a permanent mark on the soul, is divided into three degrees:

  1. The bishop receives this sacrament in its fullness, and becomes, together with all other bishops, one of the successors of the apostles.
  2. The second degree is received by presbyters or priests, who are the bishop’s closest collaborators.
  3. The third degree is received by deacons, who, not being priests and not celebrating Mass, dedicate themselves to serving the Church in various ways, e.g. they proclaim and explain the Word of God, perform certain parts of liturgical rites and coordinate many different charitable initiatives.

Those who receive the sacrament of Holy Orders do not replace Jesus Christ but represent him. He acts through them, but always remains the only High Priest.

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Celebrating Fr. Gene Shin's ordination and first mass at SFM (June 2, 1996)


MATRIMONY

God himself, who in the beginning created man and woman, has established marriage. Through the Sacrament of Matrimony, a man and a woman are united by a mutual, indissoluble and fruitful love and form a family. The marriage of two disciples of the Lord is a sacrament. The love between two married Christians is a sign of Jesus’ love for his Church and makes that love present. The couple receive from the Lord the grace and the responsibility to love each other always, to be faithful to each other, to never break the bond of their love and to give life to children and to educate them.

During the celebration of the marriage, the man and woman make a mutual commitment to each other: “I take you to be my wife” and “I take you to be my husband.” Each of them also makes this additional vow: “I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honour you all the days of my life.”

Jesus prohibits divorce. He says “That which God has united, man must not divide.” Only where there is a mutual, sincere and abiding love can human life grow and mature.