How do we answer those who say they don’t need the Sacraments because they can receive grace directly from God?
Some people say they don’t need the sacraments because they receive grace directly from God through personal prayer and Bible reading. To say that grace comes through the sacraments is not to say that grace comes only through the sacraments. Grace comes to us in many forms and we should welcome them all. Every Christian should have habits of personal prayer and Bible reading, but this should not keep one from receiving the objective grace of the sacraments. These are complementary aspects of a healthy spiritual life.
Some also object that they don’t need the Church or other individuals (bishops, priests and deacons) to be intermediaries between themselves and God. This is a misunderstanding of the nature of the Church as the body of Christ. We are not saved as a collection of unrelated individuals. We are interdependent. Each part of the body depends upon the other parts (cf. Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4:11-16; 1 St. Peter 4:7-11).
Each Christian is a sacramental person, a sign of Christ’s presence and a mediator of grace to others. Each Christian is called to represent Christ to others through his gifts. For example, when we are feeling low, Christ’s presence is mediated to us through those who have the gift for encouragement. We need the grace that comes to us from the other members of the body. The other members of the body need the grace that comes from our gifts. We all need the sacraments, which are mediated through the apostolic ministry. We have direct and personal access to God through Christ, but if that is all we have then we have a deficient biblical understanding of the nature of the Church as the body of Christ.
This Sunday’s homily touches on the need for the Sacrament of Penance or Confession to deepen your intimacy with God and others. Please see the schedule in this Sunday’s bulletin for days and times to make your confession during the season of Lent.