We're coming up on the third session of our Bible study on St. Paul and the sacraments, and I've noticed a delightful correlation between our topics and recent Lectionary readings.
Our first session was the Wednesday after Easter, and we discussed Baptism. While we won't hear Matthew 28:19 ("Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit") until the Ascension a week before Pentecost , we were treated, on the Monday after our first session, to John 3:5 ("Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God."). Being born of water and the Spirit is commonly understood as underpinning the need for Baptism, in which water is the physical sign and the sanctifying grace of the Holy Spirit is received.
Our second session was concerned with Reconciliation/Confession. The previous Sunday, we had heard John 20:23 ("If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."). The apostles were commissioned by Christ himself to carry out the ministry of reconciliation. Sins could not be forgiven or retained unless they were known (i.e., confessed).
This week, the third session covers the sacrament of Confirmation. Much of Paul's discussion of Confirmation is concerned with the seal received. When receiving Confirmation, the candidate is anointed with the words, "Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit." Yesterday's gospel had Jesus proclaiming, "Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal."
I just love it when things come together like this, as it really helps to highlight the internal unity and organic structure of the doctrine taught by the Church,.