Washed, Anointed, and Ready for Work
I notice things.
So a couple of Sundays after confirmation in my parish, I noticed that Brett, a newly confirmed high school senior, was not with his family.
After Mass I approached his dad in the plaza. “Where’s Brett?” I asked. I had a hunch I knew the answer.
His dad looked off in the distance. “You know,” Dad, replied, his tone turning wistful, “he’s not far from graduating. He just got a job, which takes up his Sundays. And, you know, Brett has a social life on Saturday nights.”
Dad paused. “I guess he’s just young and figuring it out.”
He’s young, I thought, and he’s also anointed.
But does he know this? How can we actually tell the young and confirmed the startling truth that they now are anointed to stand in the place of the risen Lord himself in the world they touch?
It has taken me the better part of a lifetime to wake up to the power of sacrament and to the power of real and fruitful sacramental living. Yet this is the invitation which the risen Lord gives us: to actually stand in his place according to the ways he has gifted us, to heal and feed and form and build up this great body of humanity in all of its labors and hopes and loves into the reign of God.
“I will send Brett a note,” I promised.
So I went home and wrote this young man. “Dear Brett,” I began, “this morning I noticed an empty place where you usually sit. That place has your name on it, and no one else can fill it.”
The next Sunday, in the plaza after Mass, Brett came and stood quietly beside me. “Thank you,” he said, his tone sounding a little shy. “I didn’t think anyone would notice.”
The sacramental life is about noticing things: noticing how—intentionally or by circumstance—I am being apprenticed, discipled by the Lord himself on my path of holiness. The sacramental life is about noticing how I am being sent to be his presence in the world I encounter.
Whether we know it or not, and no matter how old we are,
in the sacraments we encounter Christ
The Church describes sacrament as divine mystery, a ritually expressed revelation of God’s redeeming love, a “visible sign,” the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “of the hidden reality of salvation” (CCC 774). Sacraments are liturgical celebrations of what God is calling forth here and now within the Christian community.
More intimately, sacrament is a way of being in relationship with the risen Lord, his Father, and the Holy Spirit, and in relationship with our self, our work, our loved ones, and the world we touch.
True, there is a moment in time when we are baptized, when we are confirmed, a moment in time when we encounter the risen Christ in the hidden forms of Eucharist. There is a moment in time when the solemn commitment of priesthood, the solemn vow of marriage, is celebrated. There is a moment in time when we seek, receive, and celebrate forgiveness, a moment in time when we encounter unexpected forms of strength in the anointing of the sick.
In the sacraments, it is Christ himself whom we encounter.