Archdiocese of Mobile

Office for Evangelization and Family Life


Date posted: December 9, 2014

holy spiritWe are looking at the challenges to the Church’s teaching on Sacraments.  Last week we looked at the first challenge, and I think that we did such a good job that we have already essentially answered the second challenge, “Can’t God forgive us directly when we are sorry for sin?”  Could you answer that now?  Think about it and formulate an answer before you read on.  Then look below for a quick answer that I would give…


Yes, God can, but he chose to give this authority to his Apostles for a reason (see John 20).  The Apostles share the authority of with those who become their successors (see Acts 1).


So, let’s move on to the third challenge, “Aren’t the sacraments just celebrations to mark significant moments in our life?”  This is the heart of the difference between Catholic theology and Protestant theology when it comes to sacraments.  No, we believe that the words and actions of the minister of the sacrament actually cause the sacrament to happen.  Take for example Reconciliation, the words and actions of the Apostle actually cause sin to be forgiven.  Jesus does not say in John 20 to go forth and remind people that their sin is forgiven and to celebrate it.  Rather, he tells the Apostles that if they forgive sins they are forgiven and if they hold them bound they are held bound.  The forgiveness happens or does not happen based on what the Apostles DO.


In John 3 Jesus tells Nicodemus that a person must be born again of water and the spirit.  We have to be baptized.  Now, we have discussed how people may be saved who have not received this grace through the Sacrament itself, and I don’t have the space to rehash that here.  Suffice it for us to point out that the water part is essential.  If the salvation happened only by the spirit and the water (pouring or immersion) is purely symbolic then Jesus’ words in John 3 really make no sense.

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