What is a Sacrament?
An Outward Sign
You can see and experience a Sacrament. God created man with a body and soul. He knows that we need tangible experiences to help us. So God gives us His grace with “outward signs”.
If at the hour of death you were tempted to despair of your salvation, you would have the tangible experience of going to confession that can reassure you of the event in which your sins were forgiven.
Instituted by Christ
The Sacraments are not things that we made up. We do them, because Jesus is God and He commanded that they be done. The institution of Sacraments can clearly be read about in Sacred Scripture.
Why do we baptize? Because, Jesus said to. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” -Matthew 28:19
Why do we confess our sins? Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! ‘As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”-John 20:21-23
To Confer the Grace that it Signifies
The outward sign represents an inward grace that is effected. Jesus took natural experiences and by the power of the Holy Spirit super-naturalized them. He used common elements whose effects we can understand and used them to give us a share in his divine nature.For example:
Water and Baptism. Without water there is no earthly life… Without Baptism there is no eternal life. Water is used to clean the body… in Baptism water is used to clean the soul.
NB:The power and depth of a particular Sacrament does not end with the natural analogy. Learn more about Baptism and the other Sacraments by visiting their respective pages.