Like many Catholics throughout the world, I was one among those who were constantly reminded especially prior to receiving the Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Eucharist, Confirmation) that a sacrament is an outward sign on an inward grace, ordained by Jesus Christ, by which grace is given to our souls (Penny Catechism, q. 249). In those growing up years, memorising this famous maxim of the Council of Trent did not mean anything more that than an intellectual exercise and the celebration of the above mentioned sacraments were purely an outward celebration with my peers, friends, relatives and family. For many today, the sacraments are seen as important milestones in the journey of faith. This journey is not taken individually but rather as a community that enjoins itself with Christ. In other words, the celebration of every sacrament is a joyful occasion for the Church’s community to celebrate.

My growing up years was spent in a small sub-urban town and since the Catholic community was small, almost everyone was invited to the celebration of the sacraments. It was not only the recipient of the sacrament and the immediate family, the whole parish community celebrated these events. However, these days as our assemblies become larger and more individualistic, the communal celebration of the sacraments loses its character…and what a pity!

In order for us to restore the celebratory nature of the sacraments, we need to remind ourselves of the following: firstly, the sacraments are not just rituals or traditions to be kept but rather to been seen as opportunities to encounter Christ; and secondly, the sacraments enjoin us to a faith community that is receptive and welcoming even though it is imperfect in many ways.

The sacraments afford not only the recipient an opportunity of encountering Christ but it also gives the immediate family a special occasion to renew one’s faith in the Lord Jesus. If we fail to see this as an opportunity, then the sacraments become impersonal and purely ritual. This can easily happen as we live in a fast paced world where most things are seen from an egocentric perspective. The graces that come from the sacraments are not merely for the salvation of the soul but also for the sanctification of the community where we use our gifts and talents for the building up of the community. The community that we are enjoined to is never perfect since it is in the imperfection that we discover our reliance of God. In this way then can we truly appreciate that every sacrament is an opportunity and a reason to celebrate with the community.

Just as we celebrate important stages in our natural life, the sacraments celebrate the stages of our spiritual life for Baptism joins us with Christ, Confirmation gives us the Spirit, the Eucharist unites us with Christ, Confession reconciles us with Him, through Anointing Christ heals, in Matrimony Christ promises His love, and through Holy Orders priests make real the love of God. So let’s go out and celebrate the Sacraments – Christ’s own gift that provides us grace!