“Not only that,” I replied with a smile, wondering why I seem so unlikely to have been an ag student, “but a production ag minor.”
Which means, to those of you who are trying to figure out if ag is an acronym, a colloquialism, or just a silly shortening of a word you don’t know anyway, that I took a welding class. (And a small engines class, and a concrete class, and a grains class, along with animal sciences classes to my heart’s content.)
The comparison to building within A Well-Built Faith resonates with me. It gives me something tangible to relate to, and this chapter in particular struck me.
The reforming and reshaping of our lives is what we celebrate in the sacraments of initiation—Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist. What we celebrate is not a once-and-done event, however. What we celebrate is the life-long dynamic of God inviting us to die to sin and our response of embracing his saving grace. Each day that we live in Christ, we are born anew. Our baptism is not an event of past memory. It is a renewable source of energy. It is a chronic condition from which we seek no cure. It is a bond that continues to be forged in the fire of the Holy Spirit each day of our lives.
Even as we’re welded, we’re also renewed. There are times when your weld needs some help. (Ask me how I know.) There are times when you just have to scrap it and start over.
And there are times when you have to turn up the heat of the Holy Spirit on your life. Sounds painful…and maybe refreshing in a whole weird way.
What the sacraments of initiation do is set us up with a good foundation…but it’s not one that we are over and done with. I love the reminder that they’re not one-time events, though they sure seem to be, don’t they?
That’s what the Eucharist is all about. From the moment we enter the church building for Mass, we are being invited and challenged to realize that God alone sustains us. Challenged, because throughout the rest of the week, we are being subtly seduced by a myriad of messages to believe that something else sustains us. Little by little, we can fall prey to those who tell us that we will find happiness if we buy certain clothes, drive a certain car, maintain a certain weight, have a certain kind of job, make a certain salary, have a certain amount of sex, achieve a certain level of popularity, and wield a certain amount of power.
The message of the Eucharist is very clear: at our deepest level, we are incapable of sustaining ourselves.
I can’t do it all myself. Not even close. I’ve been trying to learn that and internalize it for years. Maybe before I die I’ll be closer…
Living as a consumerist society, we may be tempted to treat the Eucharist as though it is a product and we are consumers. Naturally, like all consumers, we would expect immediate gratification. The Eucharist, however, is not a product. It’s an embrace. Not a momentary embrace, but a lifelong one. Through our reception of the Eucharist, we are embraced by God, who heals and satisfies our inner ache.
At the same time, our reception of the Eucharist is an embrace, not only of God, but of our neighbors, as well. The Eucharist is not a “me and God” experience. To share a table is to enter into relationship with others. Likewise, we don’t normally drink from the same cup that someone else is drinking from, unless we have an intimate relationship with that person. So we are, in a sense, becoming intimate with those who share the cup of communion. Our communion with God is thus fulfilled by loving our brothers and sisters.
The theme of embrace is one that speaks to me. Maybe it’s that I’m not a natural hugger (though I’ll send people virtual hugs all. day. long. I’m less inclined to the actual physicality of hugging.
And yet there’s part of me that longs for a good embrace. I’m seeking it, even though I think I don’t want it.
The welding process of the sacraments of initiation is solid. They “forge us into union with Jesus and the Church,” which is a bond no one and nothing can break.