We will come to him… 10May2015

The Sacraments confer God’s Grace, participation in the life of God (CCC 1997). That is why Christ gave them to us, so that He could continue to remain with us and in us and, at the same time, raise us up to new life, a life that dwells in the divine nature of God. “I am the vine, you are the branches” (Jn. 15:5). By virtue of the Sacraments, the Church makes God’s divine life available to anyone who, properly disposed, receives them but can God communicate His Grace outside the Sacraments?

Peter comes face to face with this question when he meets Cornelius and his gentile friends. They are hungry for the word of God. They listen to Peter intently and the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening. Peter realizes that whoever fears Him and acts uprightly is acceptable to Him; he sees how God’s Grace works prior to the Sacrament, in the gift of Faith, to draw people to Him. Thy will be done!

There are two important teachings at work here. First, the Church “cannot deny the sacraments to those who seek them at appropriate times, are properly disposed, and are not prohibited by law from receiving them” (CIC 843). Proper disposition is an important factor. To confer the Sacrament is one thing; to receive it is another. God wants – He passionately desires – to share His Divine Life with every person but He does not force Himself upon us. That is why catechists work so hard to prepare persons for reception of the Sacraments and the Grace that accompanies them.

Secondly, God can and does work outside the Sacraments as He does with the Cornelius and friends. They receive Faith by the Holy Spirit and Peter, seeing that they are properly disposed, declares, “How can we withhold the waters of Baptism? This exemplifies the imprint of God on our souls as created in His image and likeness. Augustine puts it best when he says, “We were made for Thee and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.”

John tells us that, in this is love: not that we have loved God, but that He loved us. God wants all sheep in one fold and He constantly and lovingly calls everyone to participate in His Divine Life – to be a branch connected to the Vine – so that, whoever loves me will keep my word and my Father will love him and we will come to him (Jn. 14:23).

Deacon Richard

 

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