The Sacramental Way of Life
By: Mark Moitoza, Th.D.
Vice Chancellor for Evangelization
Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA
Each sacrament recognizes an encounter with God, marking a transition of inner meaning and life within the community. In approaching the sacraments, we must keep in mind the way in which the predominantly consumeristic nature of secular life can permeate even sacramental experience. Father German Martinez, author of Signs of Freedom: Theology of the Christian Sacraments (2003) notes this consumeristic influence in the first chapter of his book, “In today’s secularized society sacraments have yet to become meaningfully operative in the lives of most Christian people. For many, the sacraments are individual supernatural commodities, objects of spiritual consumerism, rather than a continuing force that nurtures an experience of conversion and freedom, growth, and transformation.”
This consumeristic approach to sacramental life has compounded the problem of unworthiness, especially among returning veterans, who are influenced by secularization just as all of us are. Accordingly, continual catechesis about the ongoing transformation sparked by sacramental encounters is needed. Jesus brought healing and offered opportunities to engage with the word of God that broke open the divine mystery, not as a one-time event, but as a continuing and approachable experience of the divine for those who least expected it.
The continuing force of sacramental grace propels the individual forward into a renewed relationship with God and the community of faith. To “stand forth,” as Professor Timothy Brunk of Villanova University suggests, is not an isolated accomplishment. The consumeristic approach consumes seeking fulfillment. The sacramental way, on the other hand, finds fulfilment in relationship with God and others. Therefore, standing forth is nurtured and encouraged within the life of the Church, which springs from baptismal consciousness. Martinez further notes, “An ongoing renewal steeped in traditional Catholic sacramental imagination and envisioning the future is needed in order to bridge the gap between worship, people’s experience of faith, and local mission. The word of God is primary and precedes the sacrament in fostering discipleship. Thus, the connection between sacramental liturgies, spirituality, and secular life is essential for the Eucharist to become actually the ‘source and summit of our Christian life.’”
Examples of faithful Christians, along with the lives of the saints and others who have grappled with the challenges of life after war, provide a context to accompany those who have served. The sacraments of healing, Reconciliation, Anointing of the Sick, and the Eucharist, offer a sustaining approach that supports gradual reintegration, leading toward discovery of new meaning and a mission to serve. The sacramental way of life helps all of us to stand forth accompanied by the community of faith.