One of the most surprising –and quite frankly, disturbing- things I have learned since being an online marriage prep instructor is how many Catholics don’t actually know what a Sacrament is. They have been raised Catholic and sadly for one reason or another, they have not grasped the beauty of what grace is all about.
Many couples tell me that they think a Sacrament is a milestone in your faith. Much like a sweet 16 or a 21st birthday, a Sacrament usually received at age 7, 13, or 20+ shows some achievement in being Catholic longer. But the reality is far from that. A Sacrament is not an achievement on our part, and it really isn’t about us at all, except that we have to have a disposition to receive the grace of the Sacrament.
You see, Sacraments are all about grace. Grace is a divine gift – something we don’t earn but that is freely given. Grace allows us to be transformed back into the image of God – something we lost in that darn original sin. So we can look at it like we are in a war between sin and grace. Grace is so easy to get! And sin is often so easy to do!
In today’s culture, hardly anyone believes in sin anymore. You try to be a good person, and that’s enough. Or, whatever you believe to be true is right for you. One’s opinion becomes truth for them. So, having sex before marriage? Not a sin if you don’t want it to be, apparently, or if you really love someone. Contraception? No big deal because the Church is old-fashioned and needs to get with the times, I’ve heard. This is actually a really big problem, though.
Sin is believing that we know better than God and deciding to go against his plan for us. Sin separates us from God and disfigures us from His perfect and beautiful image that we were created to be in. Sin is evil, and sin is death. And we’ve got some serious sins going on these days that distort this image such as choosing not to abstain before marriage or using contraception. Or when we don’t go to Mass every Sunday, when we choose to look at pornography, or when we tell our friends it’s okay to have an abortion.
Grace is what can bridge that separation and restore us to the image of God.
Too many Catholics think that getting married in the Church is a milestone or a family tradition and it’s no big deal to disagree with the Church on these matters of faith and morals. Unfortunately, by doing that, we our cutting ourselves off from being able to receive God’s grace. It’s like putting a tourniquet on your arm and cutting off blood flow to your fingers. Your fingers will fall off without that life-giving blood. Your soul will die without life-giving grace.
Going to Confession takes off that tourniquet and allows us to receive that grace again. But first you have to recognize your sin, be willing to admit it, and like the woman caught in adultery, desire to turn away and sin no more. Of course, we are all sinners and we will always need to go to Confession. Some tourniquets are tighter than others, and some sins separate us from God more than others. But the important thing is to say: “I need the Sacraments!”
I need Marriage in order to restore the relationship between man and woman and give me the grace to love like God loves.
I need the Eucharist to be my daily bread, to feed my soul, and make me more in the image of God
I need Confession to take away my sins and give me the grace to sin no more.
I need Baptism to take away my original sin and be able to receive all this grace in the first place!
So take advantage of this great gift of grace, given to us in the Sacraments, bought by the blood of Christ! And recognize sin for what it is – ruining your soul and your chance at eternal life- and reject it in all its forms. Abstinence before marriage, saying no to contraception? Yes, they are hard things! But so is training for a marathon or working towards a job promotion. Are they worth it? Heck yes, as we can bask in God’s grace and experience our lives and our marriages to the fullest.