Preparation is necessary for everything that we do. Without exception, preparation is offered for all the Sacraments.
The Sacraments are a beginning, not a graduation. They are not ¸ something that we get, but a reality which we live. The Sacraments are verbs not nouns. However, those who want to participate in the life of the Church must consider the cost. There is no charge for the Sacraments, but the price of living the life of a Catholic Christian is high. The price is our life! Jesus wants us all or nothing. That’s why He warns us about being prepared, especially for the challenges, which will inevitably arise. For example, once we are baptized into the Catholic Faith, we are called to live by the teachings of the Church. We can’t pick and choose like a cafeteria. Some folks see the Sacraments as a social event—something they have to do because their grandparents were Catholic, they were baptized and now their children will be baptized. They go through the motions. But after all is said and done, they leave. Don’t hear from them until it’s time for Confession, Holy Communion or marriage. Their view of the Church is like a gas station—just come, get what you need—pay the bill—and head out. The concept of growing as a community, getting involved in ministry, stewardship—never crossed their mind. Truth is that every active Catholic should have a ministry. Doesn’t have to be in the Church premises. Parishioners reach out to the homeless, nursing homes, take care of an elderly relative. There are countless “unsung” heroes doing God’s work who do not need nor want recognition. Living who we say that we are indeed comes at a high price.
Therefore, Jesus says, think ahead. “Do I have what it takes to be a true disciple? Can I be a follower of Jesus Christ?” As with any major decision planning needs to happen. Any coach can testify that in order to win a football game, strategic planning must have first priority. Who is the opposing team? What are their strengths/weaknesses? Some will win, some will loose. We all want to win. In essence we are all winners when we allow Jesus to be on our team.
In the Incarnation Jesus became a team player with all of humanity. For centuries, we couldn’t get it right. We didn’t believe that God loved us just because. Human sacrifice, then animal sacrifice was offered to try to keep God happy. Until Jesus came and said, stop the bloodshed! He became the sacrifice. Jesus took upon Himself all the sins of the world—from creation to the last person who will walk the planet and took them to the cross. The debt has been paid. We are free. Yet, so many still have a difficult time believing that God loves us. If folks really believed, then there wouldn’t be enough room for just the Catholics. The majority of people are still operating on the system of punishments and rewards. When we are convinced of God’s love—the freedom, which comes from the Gospel—then nothing else matters. We will renounce possessions, accept the cross, not care about rumors. We are slow learners. Majority of us want to earn our way, which is impossible. Salvation does not come from our efforts but through God’s mercy. The greatest effort that we will ever make to be a disciple is to allow ourselves to be loved. Getting out of the way of the Holy Spirit takes practice. Our biggest obstacle is pride. Therefore the real battle happens inside with our own woundedness. Forgiveness of the past in order to not get discouraged is a powerful weapon. Letting go of past resentments is essential in surrendering to unconditional love.
Today can be the beginning of a life lived in freedom. God is ready to help. All that we have to do is to open our heart to His mercy.