Easter is a season of sacraments — baptisms, confirmations, and first Holy Communions, both of those entering the Church and of Catholics receiving further sacraments of initiation. Ordinations, too, often take place in these months.
What is a sacrament? According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “The sacraments are efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us” (CCC 1131). In other words, Jesus has given us the sacraments through His Church as the means by which He desires to give us a share in His own life. They are both a “sign” of our future participation in God’s life in heaven and the “efficacious” means through which we receive, here in this world, that same life of God.
On the night of His Last Supper, Jesus exhorted His apostles, “Believe Me that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me” (John 14:11a). The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are so united, mutually dwelling within one another, that They are one God. This fully alive outpouring of love is the grace that God wants to give each of us through the sacraments.
Recently, one of our sisters shared with us a video she had compiled of some of her high school students entering the Church. In this beautiful video, one student was so overcome at the moment of her baptism that her gladness overflowed in the type of laughter that is often coupled with tears of joy. Watching the video, one could almost tangibly see the grace of God transforming her in that moment. As the priest poured the water over her head, the Lord poured Himself into her soul, and her radiant joy witnessed to His presence now living within her. She will never be the same again.
For those of us who have received baptism previously — many of us as infants — how often do we contemplate what God has given us in this sacrament? We are God’s sons and daughters. If we are free from mortal sin, He lives His own life within us. The Trinity dwell not only mutually within Each Other but also within us!
In baptism, God gives us His own life and makes us His children. In confirmation, He strengthens us with the power of the Holy Spirit. In the Eucharist, He feeds us with His own flesh. In confession, He forgives our sins. Through holy orders, He gives us priests to confer on us these sacramental graces. In matrimony, He blesses married love to reflect His own love. And in the anointing of the sick, He heals us spiritually, and even sometimes physically, and prepares us for heaven.
All these point to the grace He has won for us through Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection and to the grace He desires to shower upon us for all eternity. Let us live this Easter season in joyful gratitude for the gift of God’s life given to us in the sacraments. May all see from our joy that we know we have been saved and raised to new life in His Son Jesus.
Sr. Mary Martha Becnel is a member of the Ann Arbor-based Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.