Summary: Baptism is called the “portal to all the sacraments,” but it is our participation in the Eucharistic sacrifice which perfects within us the gifts given to us at Baptism.”
January 26, 2009
Timothy and Titus
On this feast of Saints Timothy and Titus, who are linked forever in the Church’s memory with St. Paul, whose conversion we celebrated yesterday, we continue with the Holy Father to reflect on the relationship between the Blessed Eucharist and the other sacraments. Remember that our notion of sacrament is tied up with the Old Testament idea of covenant. A sacrament is like a solemn oath, a promise made between two parties–God and man. The Church herself is sacramental, because she is a sign and instrument of communion with God and of the unity of the entire human race.
Some Christians get confused when we say that the Holy Eucharist is a sacrament of initiation. We think of initiation in terms of baptism, where original sin is washed away and we enter into the Church. We also instinctively know that confirmation, which signs our willingness and the Spirit’s determination to make us grow and act as prophets, priests and leaders, initiates us into our roles in the Church. But without Eucharist, our initiation is incomplete, because without this communion in Christ with each other, we are not in full union with Jesus Christ and His Church. Baptism is called the “portal to all the sacraments,” but it is our participation in the Eucharistic sacrifice which perfects within us the gifts given to us at Baptism.” It is here that our Christian initiation–which is a process, not a medal or certificate or award–is brought to completion.
Really, “the whole of Christian initiation is a process of conversion undertaken with God’s” infinite grace, and with constant reference to the Church community. It’s why the Catholic church makes a big deal about the First Communion. I can affirm with Pope Benedict that my own first communion is one of my first persistent memories. For many of us, “this day continues to be memorable as the moment when, even if in a rudimentary way, [we] first came to understand the importance of a personal encounter with Jesus.” It is critical that our parish continues to make this day a “big deal,” because the only truly important question in life is how our lives center on Jesus and follow His teaching.