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Encounters in faith

Go here for the special ways God offers mission and outreach in the Church (our sacramental life).
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Encounters in Faith
While God is present in our hearts, in our world, in all cultures and religions, and in the life of our Church, Catholics believe there are a number of special ways of experiencing God. These are called sacraments and are deep encounters in faith.

There are so many voices offering us guidance. From weight loss programs to self-help guides to success, our consumer society seems to have a product designed to make a better you no matter which way we turn. Some people seek spiritual guidance in the smorgasbord of religions or the use of tarot cards, crystals or astrology. Unfortunately, many pathways we take are either misguided or destructive.
The loving God that we believe in did not abandon us to a chaotic life. We are created for a relationship of love in our God, and therefore we need to be guided ever more deeply into this relationship. How does this happen?
After Jesus had risen from the dead he announced that another would be coming, an Advocate, the Holy Spirit. When Jesus had gone to heaven, there was an event we call "Pentecost" which transformed the disciples and gave them many gifts to fulfil Jesus' mission (See The Bible, The Book of Acts, chapter 2, verses 1 - 13).
 
Catholics recognise this moment as the birth of the Church, and that these first followers were confirmed in their faith.
While we believe people receive the Holy Spirit at their Baptism, Confirmation strengthens us to cooperate more fully with the Spirit's guiding power in our life. We are said to receive special spiritual gifts; wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord (also known as reverence).
In our diocese children are usually confirmed when they are in Year Six. A priest or the Bishop prays that God - in the form of the Holy Spirit - will fill the young person with spiritual gifts. Using special oil (the Oil of Chrism), the sign of the cross is made on the forehead of the young person, 'sealing' them in their faith.
 
This sacrament brings about positive fruits in someone's life. The fruits of receiving this Holy Spirit are: charity, joy, peace, patience, goodness and mildness, among others.
Through this channel we receive new life and strength. Think of Superman and his superhuman powers. Confirmation helps people act in a spiritually superhuman way!
For what purpose are these gifts and fruits given to us? To offer mission and outreach to our world.
Explore how confirmation is a sacrament of belonging and community.
 
At the end of the movie Four Weddings and a Funeral, Hugh Grant's character asks his love interest (played by Andie MacDowell) to promise never to marry him. He has become cynical about the whole business of marriage and the stress and commitment that surrounds it.
Our culture seems increasingly to encourage a consumer mentality towards relationships. If you buy something and it breaks you might buy a replacement, and if it was worth a lot, you might try and get a refund. This seems similar to pre-nuptial agreements where partners agree on a settlement before they marry in case things don't work out.
 
Why get married? Why get tied up to one person forever? How can we guarantee the marriage will work, and what if someone better came along?
In our Christian understanding, marriage is a sacrament because it reflects and embodies God's covenant with God's people. God will never give up on humanity, and remains faithful forever. Furthermore, God's connection with us is far more than a business contract, but is that of a lover, who is willing to forgive us and renew the relationship of love every day. In the same way, a Christian marriage is to reflect this abiding love.
The nature of love is not to be self-serving, but seeks to share its life with others. In the same way, Christian marriage does not simply nurture the couple but is to overflow and offer new life to others. That is why every Catholic marriage is open to children. Yet more fundamentally, marriage is a vocation, a fundamental life option. Those called to this vocation are called to fullness of life and find their mission and outreach to the broader community through this vocation.
In the Catholic Church there are three orders: bishop, priest, and deacon. The word 'holy' simply means 'set apart for some purpose'. The word 'order' (ordo, in Latin) designates a corporation with a hierarchy, and ordination means legal incorporation into an ordo. In context therefore, a Holy Order is simply a group with a hierarchical structure that is set apart for ministry in the Church.
Jargon aside, just as some people are called to marriage, others are called to the holy orders, to minister to the people of God in a distinct way.
Bishops, priests and deacons see their life as a vocation, a fundamental life option. Those called to this vocation are called to fullness of life and find their mission and outreach to the broader community through this vocation.

The word 'Eucharist' literally means 'thanksgiving'. We have much to be grateful to God for - our world, our relationships, our very lives. With gratitude comes responsibility. We recognise that God has gifted us with much and that we need to be good stewards of the gifts entrusted to us, especially the gifts of God's faith, hope and love.

The Eucharist truly is a sacrament of mission and outreach. For as we have been gifted with much, we are gifts ourselves, given by God for our needy world. Jesus repeatedly reminded his disciples of their mission to love one another. At the last Supper, on which our Eucharist is modelled, Jesus washes his disciples feet, and invites them to do the same for others.

Eucharist is a sacrament of transformation. Just as the gifts of bread and wine offered are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ, so too, we bring the gifts of ourselves, with all our faults and shortcomings, to be transformed into the Body of Christ for the world. Become what you receive, St Augustine tells us.
 
Throughout the Eucharist words and actions surrounding mission abound:
  • When we gather, we bless ourselves with holy water, a reminder of our Baptism, when we were claimed for God and to be God's disciples.
  • The Word of God nourishes with God's mission as found in Scripture and to be lived through us today.
  • In the Prayer of the Faithful we pray for the needs of our Church and world.
  • We pray "Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" not simply as a wish but with conviction that we will be agents to bring about the kingdom in cooperation with God's Spirit.
  • At the sign of peace, Christ's peace is offered to our neighbour and to us in turn. We called to act to deepen this peace with our neighbour and the wider world.
  • We share in Communion, being healed transformed into the Body of Christ, to be broken and shared with our needy world.
  • We are invited to go in peace to love and serve and so heal the world.
In the Eucharist we are grateful to be in communion with Christ. Yet we also grieve for the world that still hungers for food and water, for justice and peace and for the abiding love of community in God. The Eucharist sends us forth to feed that hunger.
  • Friday, 25 November 2011
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