Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Year of Faith: The Seven Sacraments: Reconciliation, Anointing of the Sick and Holy Orders

Previous posts in my series of posts for the Year of Faith:
God the Creator
Jesus, The Incarnation
Jesus, The Savior
Mary, The Mother of God
The Holy Spirit

The Church & the Pope

Since I had scheduled Marriage in June, I'm just going to address Reconciliation, Anointing of the Sick and Holy Orders for May. 

Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick are the two sacraments of healing. While the sacraments of initiation bring us into life in Christ and draw us into a deeper relationship with Him, we are still human beings on earth subject to suffering, illness and death. Our new life as a child of God can still be weakened or even lost by sin. Christ, in His compassion, instituted these sacraments so that the Church could continue His ministry of healing.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation is also called Penance or Confession. When we sin, we offend God's honor and love, wound our own human dignity and harm the spiritual well-being of the Church. Through God's grace, when we have sinned, we are called to conversion and repentance, regret and abhor our sins and resolve to not sin again. The sacrament consists in the penitent doing these three things and the priest's absolution. Then the penitent receives an act of penance to do in order to repair the harm caused by sin.

Reconciliation is one of the most misunderstood sacraments. On the one hand, I equate it with going to the dentist. I get nervous before I get there and it isn't fun to go, but I know it is good for me and I should go. But, there is another side to this sacrament too. There is the gentle beauty of the wounded soul's humble plea for mercy that is met with the kind forgiveness of the infinitely merciful God. It is a moment of such profound love and beauty that afterwards there is profound joy. Much better than clean teeth is a clean soul.

Anointing of the Sick
Throughout His ministry, Jesus healed the sick and cured the lame just as He forgave sins. He came to heal the whole person, both body and soul. 
Christ’s compassion toward the sick and his many healings of every kind of infirmity are a resplendent sign that “God has visited his people” and that the Kingdom of God is close at hand. Jesus has the power not only to heal, but also to forgive sins; he has come to heal the whole man, soul and body; he is the physician the sick have need of. His compassion toward all who suffer goes so far that he identifies himself with them: “I was sick and you visited me.” His preferential love for the sick has not ceased through the centuries to draw the very special attention of Christians toward all those who suffer in body and soul. It is the source of tireless efforts to comfort them. (CCC 1503)
The sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick confers special grace on the Christian who is experiencing difficulties inherent in the condition of grave illness or old age. Obviously impending death is always a reason to receive this sacrament, but it is not necessary for death to be an immediate concern. Any illness or impending surgery is a good occasion to receive this grace.  Only priests can give this sacrament but it has the beautiful blessings of uniting the sick person to the passion of Christ, giving the sick person the strength, peace and courage to endure his sufferings in a Christian manner, the forgiveness of his sins, preparation for passing to eternal life and possibly even the restoration of health if it is conducive to the salvation of his soul. 

I've have briefly covered the three sacraments of initiation and the two sacraments of healing. There remains two sacraments of vocation or of the service of communion. Holy Orders and Matrimony are directed towards the salvation of others. Through these sacraments, those already consecrated by Baptism and Confirmation for the common priesthood of all the faithful can receive particular consecrations for a particular service.

Holy Orders
Those who receive the sacrament of Holy Orders are consecrated in Christ's name "to feed the Church by the word and grace of God." (CCC 1535) "Holy Orders is the sacrament through which the mission entrusted by Christ to his apostles continues to be exercised in the Church until the end of time: thus it is the sacrament of apostolic ministry." (1536) There are three degrees of Holy Orders. The episcopate is the fullness of the sacrament and consists of the bishops. The presbyterate share in the universal mission entrusted by the apostles to the episcopate but they depend on the bishops in the exercise of their own power. The presbyterate are the episcopate's co-workers and are called priests. The diaconate share in the same mission but in a special way. "Among other tasks, it is the task of deacons to assist the bishop and priests in the celebration of the divine mysteries, above all the Eucharist, in the distribution of Holy Communion, in assisting at and blessing marriages, in the proclamation of the Gospel and preaching, in presiding over funerals, and in dedicating themselves to the various ministries of charity." (1570) The diaconate consists of deacons.

Through baptism, the whole Church is a priestly people, that is sharing in the priesthood of Christ in the common priesthood of the faithful. The task of serving the common priesthood of the faithful is given to the ordained priesthood. Every level of Holy Orders is imprinted with a special character on their soul that cannot be removed. This character configures the bishop and the priest to Christ in his threefold office of priest, prophet and king and the deacon to Christ as servant. 

“Only a baptized man (vir) validly receives sacred ordination.” The Lord Jesus chose men (ver) to form the college of the twelve apostles, and the apostles did the same when they chose collaborators to succeed them in their ministry. The college of bishops, with whom the priests are united in the priesthood, makes the college of the twelve an ever-present and ever-active reality until Christ’s return. The Church recognizes herself to be bound by this choice made by the Lord himself. For this reason the ordination of women is not possible. (1577)
Even though Jesus did break with the culture of his time and regard women very highly, He did choose only men as his twelve Apostles and the Church simply doesn't believe it has the authority to alter that. Only a bishop can confer this sacrament and then it done so by the laying on of hands with a solemn prayer of consecration. No one has a "right" to the sacrament of Holy Orders. No one can lay claim to it; he must be chosen by God and called to it. 

All the ordained ministers of the Latin Church, with the exception of permanent deacons, are normally chosen from among men of faith who live a celibate life and who intend to remain celibate “for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.” Called to consecrate themselves with undivided heart to the Lord and to “the affairs of the Lord,” they give themselves entirely to God and to men. Celibacy is a sign of this new life to the service of which the Church’s minister is consecrated; accepted with a joyous heart celibacy radiantly proclaims the Reign of God. (1579)
There are married priests in the Roman Catholic Church but they are rare and were married before they converted to Catholicism and became Roman Catholic priests. Priests can be married in the Eastern churches but even then bishops are only chosen from among the celibate and no priest can marry after he has been ordained. 

When Christ instituted the Church and the sacraments, it was part of his promise to never leave us. He provides for our journey to Heaven from our beginning to our end, from our birth, to our faith, to our struggles, to our pains, to our service to others, to our death - there is always grace to heal us, to sustain us and to carry us through. 

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