We often forget this truth. We find something good and so conclude that it must be the exclusive vessel or agent of that good.
We do it with political parties and denominations. We do it in theology. We do it for nations and ethnicities. We do it as we rank universities. We do it in the throes of romantic attachment.
For example, in Catholic theology, we have the liturgical sacraments as the infallible vessels of grace to recipients (with the fruits of the sacrament arising if the recipient has the needed disposition of faith). But God also bestows grace in many other ways--through simple prayer, through the beauty of nature, through the beauty of good people. The dignity and distinctive role of liturgical sacaraments are not diminished by these other routes of grace. As the official Catholic Catechism tells us, "God is not bound by his sacraments" (CCC Paragraph 1257).
And so we can say that certain non-liturgical realities are "like" sacraments, as the Church herself is said to be "like a sacrament" (Lumen Gentium, 1.1, third sentence).
Many people whom we have the privilege of meeting, often just in passing, can be like sacraments to us and sources of grace to us. I think of this reality when I recall some who have passed away. I especially wish to dedicate this meditation to the memory of one of my students who recently and suddenly passed away. Bonum esse exclusivum non necesse est.
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