I was listening to EWTN radio this morning and I heard a fascinating phone call. The caller asked the DJ (maybe the guest, I tuned in and only heard this call) why he needed to receive a sacrament of Penance before receiving the sacrament of Confirmation.
I was floored, to say the least.
Catholic theology teaches that the sacraments are containers of God’s grace. When you receive a sacrament, you are essentially taking an outpouring of God’s grace. The sacrament of Confirmation, however, is more than that.
In Confirmation, the Holy Spirit descends upon you, and bestows his gifts chosen for you to be a faithful worker in God’s kingdom. Though it isn’t strictly necessary, biblically speaking, I think it is an excellent idea to invite the Spirit to take residence in a clean temple.
I stole that from the DJ or guest, because I liked it.
Now, why didn’t the caller already know that? You think he would. I knew the answer right away. True, I was raised Catholic, but it wasn’t on my Catholic upbringing that I drew for the answer. Consider the words of Paul regarding the receiving of the Supper:
Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. (1 Cor 11:27-32)
I should think that anytime we receive a measure of grace from God, we ought to do such a self-examination. Just because grace is an unmerited favor that God shares with us, we still ought to accept it reverently and with as clean a heart as we are capable of. Never should we just take it lightly, or we are taking judgment on ourselves.
For the Catholic, that means confession to a priest, and completing a penance for absolution. That is so small considering the gift of the Holy Spirit that is about to fill you; greater peace and grace isn’t possible here on earth.
But, is this only a Catholic problem? Nope. The whole church, Catholic and Protestant, has done an awful job of educating people of the first step of the gospel of our Lord–that we are sinners in need of a Savior. The world teaches us that we are basically good; we are evolving toward something greater. Our evolution is merely incomplete, so it’s not our fault when we behave like roughians.
I blame the world for teaching that. I blame the caller for buying into it, and not submitting to the teaching of the Church and the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is one example among many of how far we as Christians have to go to get the gospel message out to a world that needs it now more than ever.