How do Catholics celebrate key events in a person’s life?

By | September 4, 2019


One night a little girl got ready for bed,
her Mum and Dad tucked her in, kissed her goodnight and went down stairs to watch television.
About half an hour later the little girl called out, “Mummy, Daddy, I’m scared, it’s dark
up here!” Her mother called back, “Don’t worry darling, remember that God is always with
you, you’ll be OK.” To which the little girl replied, “But I want someone with skin on!” It’s a great story isn’t it because we all
know what it’s like to want someone with skin on, we long to experience someone very present
to us in our moments of darkness and doubt and fear as well as in our moments of joy
and excitement and celebration. In a real sense Jesus has put skin on God
for us, he is God made flesh who shares our human story. God chose to communicate God’s
great love for us through Jesus. However as Jesus risen from the dead is no longer physically
present in our world, the community of believers, the followers of Jesus, the Church has been
charged through the power of the Holy Spirit to “put skin on God”. The Catholic Church does this in a very particular
way. We know God is always present, loving us, however at significant moments of our
lives the Church offers us rituals using words and actions and symbols that lead us into the very heart of the mystery of God. These rituals are called sacraments. All life begins in and is sustained by water.
When parents bring their babies to the Church, or young people or adults choose a
Christian life they are baptised, that is, they are plunged into the cleansing and life-giving
waters of baptism, the first of the sacraments. This new life of faith is further strengthened,
when the bishop or priest prays over the child or adult calling down the Holy Spirit upon
them and anointing them with the oil of Sacred Chrism. This is called the sacrament we call Confirmation. As Catholics what we celebrate in sacraments
is reflected in the earthly life of Jesus. Jesus himself was baptised in the River Jordan
and his faith was strengthened through the power of the Holy Spirit. We know too from
the Gospels, the stories of the life of Jesus that he fed people. Jesus knew the physical
and spiritual hunger of the people around him. Before his death and resurrection Jesus
celebrated a final meal with his disciples, leaving himself to them and to us in the form
of bread and wine. Sunday after Sunday we gather as the present day disciples to share
the consecrated bread and wine, his Body and Blood, so that we are strengthen for the journey
of life. The celebration of the sacrament of Eucharist really does put skin on God for
us! Sickness, in its many forms, confronts each
of us at some stage of our life. When this is serious the Church through the priest lays
hands on us and anoints us with the healing balm, the Oil of the Sick. This is a prayer
for healing and for the strength we need to face the journey ahead. This sacrament is
called the Anointing of the Sick. We are very aware in our world today of the
need for reconciliation. Through the sacrament of Penance, sometimes call reconciliation
or confession, we are invited to experience the deep and real mercy of God when our lives
are broken and in need of healing. The Church has from early times has chosen or
ordained leaders for the community of believers. When a man is ordained a deacon or priest
or bishop, hands are laid upon him and he is anointed for the mission ahead. We call this sacrament of Holy Orders. Another significant moment in many people’s
lives, including people of faith, is when a couple stand before God and their family
and friends to commit themselves in married love all the days of their lives. The love
of God in Jesus is a selfless love, a love that nurtures life. In the sacrament of marriage
the church blesses the married love of a couple and prays that their love will be open to
all life, the new life of children and the wellbeing of all people. Married life puts
skin on God for the couple, their family and all they meet. In his earthly life Jesus healed and fed,
welcomed and forgave, gave life and loved. Through the rituals of the Church the Risen
Christ continues to be present to us healing and forgiving, feeding and welcoming, giving life
and loving. We need not be like the child in the story afraid of the dark. When we live
a sacramental life we know a God “with skin on” and know that this will continue into
eternity!

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