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The Sacraments Instituted By Christ… The Cisterns Of Grace

November 19, 2017 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM

Part 3

In the last article, I finished the text with a prayer for the bishops of Malta, who now allow people living in adultery to receive Holy Communion. May our Lady guide them to repentance, and to correct their wrong teaching, lest they answer before God our Lord for leading people into committing a sacrilege every time they receive the Eucharist.
“Sacrilege”? Do I sound too “rigid”? What is a sacrilegious Communion? Here is an issue that extremely few people, including priests, are prepared to investigate.
A person who, knowingly and willingly, approaches a Sacrament of the Living in mortal sin, or a Sacrament of the Dead without proper dispositions, profanes what is most holy, and commits a grave sin of sacrilege.
The holiness of a sacrament is beyond our full comprehension; it is a source of divine grace, and grace is the fruit of the Precious Blood of Christ. Regarding an unworthy Communion, a sacrilegious Communion, St. Paul warns the Corinthians that such unworthy Communions among them were the cause of the sickness of some and the death of others! It is a very serious business, friends! Here is what he taught:
“Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. . . . For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died” (1 Cor. 11:27, 29-30).
A similar situation applies to Confession: If a person is not determined to pray and make an effort not to sin again, but has the explicit intention to go on sinning, his Confession is not valid and is unworthy. He leaves the confessional with an extra sin on his conscience.
This is precisely what will happen — or is already happening — in Malta: The people who live in adultery go to Confession without the intention of leaving the adulterous relationship and then they go to receive Holy Communion with the same dispositions. It is the accumulation of sin upon sin, and the bishops are co-responsible for such accumulation and will be accountable to God for leading the faithful into sin.
Here we see why it is necessary for Pope Francis to answer the Dubia of the four cardinals who asked him to clarify his ambiguous statement in Amoris Laetitia.
The Malta bishops are claiming that they are being consistent with the Pope’s teaching. Yes, clarification is absolutely necessary.
The number of the sacraments instituted by Jesus Christ is seven, and not three or two as Martin Luther claimed. The Church has always affirmed the number seven, and even if she had not done so, the testimony of history suffices to prove it. For instance, the Greek and Russian (and other Byzantine) Orthodox Churches, whose separation from Rome dates from the 11th century onward, are in perfect accord with us on the divine institution, the number, the grace-giving power, and the use and identity of the sacraments.
The oriental Orthodox Churches (Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopian, Syrian, Malankara), whose separation dates in the fifth century, have the same seven sacraments. The Assyrian Church, whose separation also dates from the fifth century, has the same seven sacraments that we do.
But the Protestant Revolution of the 16th century led by Luther presumed to remodel the Church of Christ and its institutions according to personal preferences. By denying that the sacraments give grace, by reducing their number from seven to three or two, and, in particular, by their rejection of the Sacrament of Holy Orders with its power to consecrate the Blessed Eucharist and to forgive sin, Protestant leaders left themselves as merely a remnant of Christianity. They broke the cisterns of grace given them by Christ.
Their sects multiplied by the thousands, and today make a supermarket of Protestantism where every Tom, Dick, and Harry makes his own little church according to his personal whims.
It is indeed a perplexing thing to see a statue of Luther erected in the Paul VI auditorium in the Vatican.
In the postconciliar era, Catholics have too often been told that we are a “Church pilgrim” and no longer a Church Militant. This change has weakened the apostolic zeal of faithful Catholics, and introduced the ill-defined concept whereby evangelization should “seek convergence” with non-Catholics, instead of seeking the conversion of non-Catholics.
It is important to remind all of us that the Church of Christ on Earth is and always will be the Church Militant, an army engaged in spiritual warfare. St. Paul (Ephesians 6) describes in detail the armor of God which Catholics must put on.
A comparison helps us to grasp the significance of the sacraments appointed for the welfare of the individual. Through Baptism, we are born, as it were, into a race of warriors. In Confirmation, we come of age, we take arms, and go forth a fully equipped soldier to battle with the evil one. We are fed and nourished with the spiritual food of the Holy Eucharist. If in the battle we are wounded by sin, Penance is at hand to restore us to health.
In the last contest, Extreme Unction completes the healing process of Penance, removes any vestiges of weakness, and gives us strength and courage to win the soldier’s reward, which, for us, is death in the state of grace and Heaven for eternity.
Since the sacraments are rites of a visible Church, and are designed for the welfare of its members, they may all be described as “social,” but the term can be applied with particular justice to Holy Orders and Matrimony as promoting in a very special way the general well-being of the whole Christian society.
Holy Orders provides the Church with a succession of bishops and priests to teach, govern, and sanctify the faithful, while Matrimony consecrates family life, and gives parents the grace, by their instruction and good example, to give the Church a new generation of worthy members. Thus, Sacrament of Holy Orders perpetuates the government of the Church; the Sacrament of Matrimony, its membership.
As you see, Jesus did a complete job in instituting the sacraments, didn’t He?

+ + +

(Raymond de Souza, KM, is a Knight of the Sovereign and Military Order of Malta; a delegate for International Missions for Human Life International [HLI]; and an EWTN program host. He is a militant pro-life writer and apologist, addressing live audiences and delivering talks on television, radio, and online. To date he has given over 2,500 presentations in 38 countries of the six continents. He is available to speak at Catholic events, both large and small, anywhere in the Free World, in four languages — English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese. Website: www.RaymonddeSouza.com.)

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