Sr Kari Hatherell discusses how Jesus has put skin on God for us and how the Catholic Church offers us rituals, called sacraments, that lead us into the heart of the mystery of God.
Sr Kari Hatherell, Pastoral Director, St Johns-wood The Gap parish.
TranscriptAuthor: Archdiocese of Brisbane
One night a little girl got ready for bed, her Mum and Dad tucked her in, kissed her goodnight and went down stairs to watch television. About half an hour later the little girl called out, “Mummy, Daddy, I’m scared, it’s dark up here!” Her mother called back, “Don’t worry darling, remember that God is always with you, you’ll be OK.” To which the little girl replied, “But I want someone with skin on!”
It’s a great story isn’t it because we all know what it’s like to want someone with skin on, we long to experience someone very present to us in our moments of darkness and doubt and fear as well as in our moments of joy and excitement and celebration.
In a real sense Jesus has put skin on God for us, he is God made flesh who shares our human story. God chose to communicate God’s great love for us through Jesus. However as Jesus risen from the dead is no longer physically present in our world, the community of believers, the followers of Jesus, the Church has been charged through the power of the Holy Spirit to ‘put skin on God’.
The Catholic Church does this in a very particular way. We know God is always present, loving us, however at significant moments of our lives the Church offers us rituals using words, actions and symbols that lead us into the heart of the mystery of God. These rituals are called sacraments.
All life begins in and is sustained by water. When parents bring their babies to the Church, or young people or adults choose to live a Christian life they are baptised, that is, they are plunged into the cleansing and life-giving waters of baptism, the first of the sacraments. This new life of faith is further strengthened, when the bishop or priest prays over the child or adult calling down the Holy Spirit upon them and anointing them with the oil of Sacred Chrism. This is called the sacrament of Confirmation.
As Catholics what we celebrate in sacraments is reflected in the earthly life of Jesus. Jesus himself was baptised in the River Jordan and his faith was strengthened through the power of the Holy Spirit. We know too from the Gospels, the stories of the life of Jesus that he fed people. Jesus knew the physical and spiritual hunger of the people around him. Before his death and resurrection Jesus celebrated a final meal with his disciples, leaving himself to them and to us in the form of bread and wine. Sunday after Sunday we gather as the present day disciples to share the consecrated bread and wine, his Body and Blood, so that we are strengthen for the journey of life. The celebration of the sacrament of Eucharist really does put skin on God for us!
Sickness, in its many forms, confronts each of us at some stage of life. When this is serious the Church through the priest lays hands on us and anoints us with the healing balm, the Oil of the Sick. This is a prayer for healing and for the strength we need to face the journey ahead. This sacrament is called the Anointing of the Sick.
We are very aware in our world today of the need for reconciliation. Through the sacrament of Penance, sometimes call reconciliation or confession, we are invited to experience the real and deep mercy of God when our lives are broken and in need of healing and forgiveness.
The Church has from early times has chosen or ordained leaders for the community of believers. When a man is ordained a deacon or priest or bishop, hands are laid upon him and he is anointed for the mission ahead. This is the sacrament of Holy Orders.
Another significant moment in many people’s lives, including people of faith, is when a couple stand before God and their family and friends to commit themselves in married love all the days of their lives. The love of God in Jesus is a selfless love, a love that nurtures life. In the sacrament of marriage the church blesses the married love of a couple and prays that their love will be open to all life, the new life of children and the wellbeing of all people. Married life puts skin on God for the couple, their family and all they meet.
In his earthly life Jesus healed and fed, welcomed and gave life, forgave and loved. Through the rituals of the Church the Risen Christ continues to be present to us healing and feeding, welcoming and giving life, forgiving and loving. We need not be like the child in the story afraid of the dark. When we live a sacramental life we know a God ‘with skin on’ and know that this will continue into eternity!