Edmund: Okay so I’ve always been fascinated by the story of St. Thomas.
Emily: Which St. Thomas are we talking about?
Edmund: This one.
Emily: Oh yes. That one. The one who asked to stick his finger in Jesus’ side, right?
Edmund: Yes. After three years of following Jesus, you could say Thomas knew Jesus very well. But after Jesus’ death, even though Thomas heard about Jesus’ resurrection from the other apostles, he didn’t believe it. He said he wouldn’t believe it unless he could stick his own hand into the wounds in Jesus’ hands and side. And then…Jesus appeared to Thomas and invited him to do just that.
Emily: At first glance it doesn’t seem this story really paints St. Thomas in the best light.
Edmund: Well let’s think about it in a different light… We’re all kinda like St. Thomas in a way. It’s hard to believe something without direct contact with it. We use the physical world to experience truth. The apostles knew this when they said [in first John] that they proclaim “what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we looked upon and touched with our hands.” It’s because they actually touched Jesus.
Emily: God communicates to us in ways we can understand, right? Since we’re not just souls but also physical beings, that means God communicates to us through the physical world.
Edmund: God’s plan is for us to share in his blessed life! This blessing is revealed and communicated through the sacraments. God uses bread, wine, water, oil, and human words in the sacraments to communicate grace to us.
Emily: What exactly is a sacrament?
Edmund: Jesus instituted visible signs that actually DO what they signify. These are the Sacraments. These signs give us grace and allow us to participate in the life of Jesus. Through tangible, visible realities, we are brought into contact with the risen Lord Jesus in a way WE can understand. This all happens within the context of the Liturgy and the work of the Church. This is God’s way of blessing us, and allowing us to share in his blessed life.
The Catechism says in paragraph 1079: “From the beginning until the end of time the whole of God’s work is a blessing. From the liturgical poem of the first creation to the canticles of the heavenly Jerusalem, the inspired authors proclaim the plan of salvation as one, vast, divine blessing.”
Emily: Aristotle defined happiness as the fullest development of our highest power: our intellect and our will, or our ability to think and act. So is this blessed life also a happy life?
Edmund: Yes, and God takes it even further. Our human capacities of thinking and acting are just that — human. But, through the sacraments, our capacities for truth and goodness and love are elevated. We’re given supernatural powers to enter into communion with the way God thinks and acts and loves. This is called sanctifying grace, because it allows us to share in the life of God.
Emily: What are these sacraments?
Edmund: All the sacraments are rooted in moments from the life of Christ, because it is Jesus who instituted the sacraments. There are three sacraments of initiation, two of healing, and two at the service of communion.
Emily: Okay, let’s start with these.
Edmund: Okay. The three sacraments of initiation are Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist. These are the sacraments through which we become part of the body of Christ and enter into communion with Jesus.
Emily: And these next two sacraments are the sacraments of Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick. Through these sacraments Jesus offersus healing.
Edmund: And the two sacraments at the service of communion are Marriage and Holy Orders.
Emily: In the liturgy of the Church, we experience these sacraments, and can enter into communion with Jesus. And this allows us to experience divine happiness, or sanctifying grace, by participation in the life of God?
Edmund: Exactly. And everything in the liturgy builds up to and flows from the Eucharist. The sacraments make us temples of the Holy Spirit who then go out into the world. Through the sacraments Jesus makes himself visibly and tangibly present to us and the world around us. Just like he did for St. Thomas!