How Umbrellas Are Like the Seven Sacraments
Accept the gift of sacramental grace that God is waiting to give to you. And do it often.
It was a dismal morning in the Upstate of South Carolina today. Cold and drizzly. As I normally do on any day that is accompanied by rain, I have my umbrella handy. Wielding an umbrella wasn’t always my style. In earlier days, it just didn’t seem necessary most of the time — and besides, I was ‘too cool’ to need an umbrella (and truth be told, too cheap to buy one). However, that attitude doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. We have these wonderful, simple, highly-effective devices that can shield us from the elements, and allow us to have a more pleasant experience as we walk through our day. They also give us the opportunity to shield our family and friends walking along beside us.
So this morning, it occurred to me that the grace we receive from the sacraments is a lot like that. When we’re baptized (most of us as infants), we were given a spiritual umbrella to wash away original sin and help protect us on our walk through life via that unique grace that was freely given to us.
But our God is a generous God. His umbrellas come in different forms and frequencies. In marriage, we renew our vows every time we, as couples, engage in the marital act (the appropriate term for sexual intercourse). This act is intended to be fruitful — to be love-giving and life-giving. In fact, sometimes it’s so fruitful that you have to give that fruitfulness a name a few months later. :-) The grace that comes with a Godly marriage — where the couple fully and gratefully accepts this gift — is powerful. It strengthens that bond and protects that relationship from all those elements that threaten it. Many people these days don’t find marriage to be necessary for their relationship, or they feel it’s okay to redefine it as something other than marriage. They’d rather use a raincoat or just run fast through the storm and hope for the best. They don’t see the need for that simple, elegant umbrella of grace that is so clearly helpful to couples.
As Catholics, we also have the grace we can receive in the Holy Eucharist — where we receive the Real Presence of Christ, over and over again. In many ways very similar to marriage, in the Eucharist, the two become one flesh — the Creator giving of Himself to the created. What a gift! And we can experience that gift every day! Why eat only once each week when we can eat every day? It is truly food for the soul providing abundant grace on our daily journey. And yet, we choose instead to leave the umbrella at the door as we venture out into the world.
The journey is very difficult, though. We stumble. We fall. We hurt ourselves, and others, and God. And yet, God provides us with a beautiful umbrella of grace beyond all imagining. He forgives via the Sacrament of Confession. I once heard a nice, Mass-going Catholic woman say (with a straight face), “I don’t need to go to Confession, because I don’t sin!” That kind of blind arrogance is akin to saying, “Umbrellas are useless because it doesn’t rain, so I never get wet.” And yet, this glorious sacrament is waiting for us every week, every month, every whatever to provide us with that grace that is oh-so-needed as we admit our failings, know that we’re forgiven, and helps strengthen us in our battle against temptation.
No matter what others are doing, reach out and gladly accept that gift of sacramental grace that God is waiting to give to you. Do it often.
And don’t forget your umbrella. It's raining.