Sacraments Make The Church
Catholics believe that Sacraments were instituted by Christ himself and for the first 1500 years of Christianity were considered to be the normative way of accessing God’s grace and being apprehended by Him. Even non-Catholic Church historians (J. Kelly, Schaff) describe early Christian belief as sacramental. The writings of the Early Church Fathers, particularly on baptism and the Eucharist show a consensus regarding the sacramental nature of their belief system.
For me as a Catholic, I experience Jesus in the sacraments. The sacraments are the way in which Catholic Christians experience God. The Church refers to them as the masterworks of God. Can I experience Him outside the sacraments? Sure, and for 31 years as an evangelical I did, but as a Catholic Christian I feel like my connection to God has been enhanced. Why does he choose to use the stuff of earth to convey His grace? I don’t know but I think the answer lies in the mystery of the Incarnation.
The grace I receive from the sacraments are the result of my interacting with Jesus himself. Jesus is operative in the sacraments and through the Holy Spirit, he pours his grace out to me in a powerful way I never experienced before I was Catholic. When I receive the Eucharist, I am touching God, he is touching me and allowing me to be consumed by him and he consumes me.
When I go to confession, I “whisper in the ear of God”, and Christ forgives me my sins through a man . The priest doesn't forgive sins, but Christ operating through him does with the authority given to him from Christ himself. The blood of the Cross shed once and for all is applied to me through the working of grace in the confessional. If we are of the proper disposition, meaning we believe and have faith and are docile to the work of the Holy Spirit, our lives change. If we receive the sacraments without faith, just going through the motions as “cultural Catholics” do, they miss out on His grace .
Read what the Church says about the sacraments from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
1118 The sacraments are “of the Church” in the double sense that they are “by her” and “for her.” They are “by the Church,” for she is the sacrament of Christ’s action at work in her through the mission of the Holy Spirit. They are “for the Church” in the sense that “the sacraments make the Church,”35 since they manifest and communicate to men, above all in the Eucharist, the mystery of communion with the God who is love, One in three persons.
1123 The purpose of the sacraments is to sanctify men, to build up the Body of Christ and, finally, to give worship to God. Because they are signs they also instruct. They not only presuppose faith, but by words and objects they also nourish, strengthen, and express it. That is why they are called ‘sacraments of faith.’44
1127 Celebrated worthily in faith, the sacraments confer the grace that they signify.48 They are efficacious because in them Christ himself is at work: it is he who baptizes, he who acts in his sacraments in order to communicate the grace that each sacrament signifies. The Father always hears the prayer of his Son’s Church which, in the epiclesis of each sacrament, expresses her faith in the power of the Spirit. As fire transforms into itself everything it touches, so the Holy Spirit transforms into the divine life whatever is subjected to his power."
Faith is a vital part of the “sacramental economy” and without faith it is impossible to please God. This is what the Church teaches.