The Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, Georgia is a very sacred place for me. It was there, when I was 17 years old, that I felt the call from God to dedicate all my life to him. The experience was intense. It happened in a split of a second. It was like an infusion of love, a little piece of heaven. Love at first sight… with God.
I immediately felt that my life could not be the same. Those things that for me were important, my future career, the type of entertainment I was interested in, music, movies, etc. All of that had changed in a split of a second. I was no longer inclined to pop music, to movies. I wanted to listen to music about God, I was drawn to things that got me closer to Him. I only thought of dedicating my life to Him. All of a sudden I found myself accepting what I had always rejected: that I would be a priest.
Many of us have had experiences of places or things that have helped us get closer to God because they have been consecrated to Him. And so, in the realm of material things and the mundanity of everyday life, we recognize the value of the consecration of these things. In the Old Testament, we see how God instituted some priests to offer sacrifices to God for the remission of our sins. The sacrificed victims and everything related to them would be consecrated to the Lord. It’s as if we were entering into a different dimension while being in the same dimension of the material world in which we live. Somehow we know that God works through these “consecrated” objects and that He comes into contact with us through them.
In Catholic theology we recognize that God’s grace becomes present through the actions and the material elements of what we call “Sacraments”. In a certain sense, this “sacramental theology” originates from the mere fact that God took a human body and soul and became present in our midst through the materiality of the humanity of Christ. The Church herself participates of the same reality. It is a human institution and yet, the action of Christ takes place through her.
However, more properly speaking, we talk about the seven sacraments instituted by Christ as the normal and tangible way through which God has desire to transmit his grace, his work, through the Church. It is true that God is not bound to transmit his grace through these means, but it is also true that he has desired to do so.
The first of these sacraments is Baptism. I was baptized as a tenth month old baby on October 1st, 1967. My parents recall how restless I was as the priest was trying to read from the ritual book. Somehow I tumbled the book out of his hands and it fell to the floor. Even though not aware of the significance of the moment, something very important happened in my soul. It was really at that time that my soul received God’s grace that regenerated my soul and I received an imprint as “someone consecrated” to God. This is the reality of baptism. This imprint, the “sacramental character” as it is properly called, had made me not only consecrated to God but it had given me the power to consecrate things and actions to God. It had given me a participation of the priesthood of Christ. It would be my duty as a Christian to consecrate the world to God by doing the most mundane tasks “for God”.
This “common priesthood” that we all receive in our baptism would, in my case, comes to perfection by the gift of another character, the one imprinted through the sacrament of “Holy Orders”. It was on December 21st, 2001 when I became a priest, capable of transforming the bread and the wine into the Body and Blood of Christ himself, and receiving the mission to sanctify the people of God and lead them towards the Promised Land of Heaven.
Sacramental Theology is about how God works in the world through his creatures, through human beings and through the same material things that are so common and yet so sacred.
We will continue reflecting on how God works through the Sacraments in our next insights.
Questions for pondering:
1. How aware are you that you are consecrated to God by your baptism?
2. How aware are you that you have a mission to consecrate the world to the Lord?
3. Consecration of the world to God takes place when we order everything we do towards God. How much is this a reality in your life?
Fr Lino Otero, LC: Originally from Nicaragua, my family moved to Miami, Florida when I was a teenager. Soon afterwards I experienced the call to serve God without reservations. Since then, I have had experience in hospital ministry, working as a middle school teacher, leading a parish school, organizing soccer tournaments for kids, starting a radio station, training priests in leadership formation, organizing a parish community from maintenance to mission, and much more. I love spiritual direction and preaching. Years of philosophy, psychology and theological training have enriched my personal life and have shaped my message of hope. For more go to linootero.me