by Michael Podrebarac
“And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” — Jn 1:14
The sacraments that we celebrate today began over two thousand years ago, with the incarnation of Jesus Christ. After all, are they not those outward, visible signs, instituted by Christ, which give grace? Of course they are.
And that is also what the Incarnation is. Jesus is an outward sign: “He is the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15).
Jesus is an outward sign, instituted by God: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son” (Jn 3:16).
Jesus is an outward sign, instituted by God, which gives grace: “And we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:14).
The sacraments make Jesus truly present to us today. And not only that, they allow us to participate in what he makes present.
In the Eucharist, Jesus is present: offering himself for us, rising for our salvation, and giving us the bread of life to eat. He invites us to participate in his offering, abiding in us, and we in him, as we eat his flesh and drink his blood.
In baptism, Jesus is present: entering his tomb and then rising from it, the Father’s beloved son. And we also die with him, and rise with him, beloved sons and daughters of the Father in the Holy Spirit.
In confirmation, Jesus makes Pentecost present to us, and we receive those same gifts of the Holy Spirit as did the apostles. And with such gifts come great responsibilities.
In reconciliation, the same Jesus who said to the woman caught in adultery, “Neither do I condemn you, go, and sin no more,” says to us, “And I absolve you from your sins. Go in peace.” And we who have been forgiven must also forgive.
In the anointing of the sick, Jesus the great physician is there to heal us in the way we need most, and we are given the privilege of joining our sufferings to his passion, carrying our own cross by his help.
In holy orders the ministry of Jesus our high priest is born through ordinary yet chosen men that the people of God might be served by the Lord himself. In a particular way, the ordained no longer themselves live, but Christ lives in them, and they are crucified with him (cf. Gal 2:20).
In holy matrimony, the complementarity between God and humanity is expressed through that of man and woman, and they participate in this most sacred and natural covenant.
This Christmas, thank God for the Incarnation. And thank him also for the sacraments. And then participate in them like never before.