Monday, April 24, 2006

Our Father

The other day I got to thinking, and since that doesn't happen too often, I knew something of true genius was afoot. No, seriously, I noticed that that at least two of the sacraments are clearly represented in the words of the Our Father. "Give us this day our daily bread" is commonly interpreted as a reference to the Eucharist and "forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us" is clearly about Reconciliation. So last night I happened to be at Sojourn, but my mind just can't focus on a 40-minute sermon (especially when, seriously, not much more is really being said than what you'd hear in a 10-minute homily... humility is not hard to understand; it's just damn near impossible to do. That would be my sermon :) . Anyway, moving on... during the sermon I figured if I'm going to be distracted, at least try to think about something related to Jesus, so I tried to see if all seven sacraments are somehow represented in the Our Father. Here's what I came up with... at first I thought some of them would be a difficult stretch, but after writing this out I think it makes sense, but I suppose you can be the judge of that :)

Our Father, who art in heaven... -- Baptism, because through the waters of Baptism and the power of faith we are cleansed of all sin and become adopted children of God. We rightfully refer to our Creator and Redeemer as "Father."

...hallowed by thy name... -- Confirmation, when we choose to publicly profess the Catholic faith, declaring that God and His Church are holy and true.

...thy kingdom come, thy will be done... -- Ordination, when God invests in regular, sinful men the power to celebrate the sacraments, pastor the Church, and see God's kingdom grow in our world.

...on earth as it is in heaven... -- Marriage, because in marriage man and woman "on earth" are joined sacramentally with God "in heaven" in a beautiful symbol of the marriage supper of the Lamb and the relationship between Christ and His bride, the Church.

...give us this day our daily bread... -- Holy Communion, which Catholics and Orthodox can truly receive on a daily basis, if we desire (and why wouldn't you? :).

...and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us... -- Reconciliation, in which we are forced to sacrifice our pride, confessing our sins to God and praying for His mercy. When we come face-to-face with our own sin in our stark contrast to Christ's perfection, we know that nobody (even Hitler) is capable of sinning against us as terribly as we have already sinned against God.

...and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. -- Anointing of the Sick, when we receive tangible reassurance that no evil, temptation, illness, or even death can conquer those whose faith is in Christ.

I look at the sacraments not as a mechanical approach to Christianity that manipulates God's grace and assuring salvation to the recipient regardless of their relationship with God. Rather, I thank God for these gifts because having been human in Christ and walking among us, He knows how desperately we need something tangible to help us grow and remain strong in our faith. That's exactly what the sacraments are: tangible signs of God's free grace.

So is God not capable of forgiving the sins of a repentant sinner, regardless of whether they were physically baptized? Of course! The criminal on the cross offers biblical proof, straight from Jesus. Clearly, the sacrament of Baptism is not for God's benefit because he is not tied to these sacraments. Rather, Baptism is for our benefit because we need to know that, "Yes, I have been washed clean," not because my parents had me dunked as an infant or I chose to be baptized as an adult, but simply because God gives us the gift of faith to believe like a child. The best thing my parents ever did for me was have me baptized when I was too young to make the choice for myself. The temptation of pride doesn't even exist because I can truly say I did nothing to earn this gift. Likewise, through the other sacraments we are reminded that nobody is worthy and just how feeble-minded we are that we need the sacraments at all, and in response all we can do is praise God and open ourselves to being a sacramental instrument for God to reach unbelievers.

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