One body, undivided

One body, undivided

When Catholics offer prayers and petitions to the Blessed Virgin, or any Saint for that matter, we do not rely on their actions or what they can do for us. We, as members of one body, rely on their sharing in our burdens through prayer, out of devotion to one another – as Paul instructs his Galatian disciples, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 1:6).

By no means does this spiritual action cause us to undermine the sole mediation of Christ or His intercessions before the Father… it allows us to be partners in it. If you have ever prayed to G-d for someone to be healed, you have interceded for that person. Yet, you have not undermined the intercessions of Christ; you have partnered in His healing power. If you have ever shared the Gospel with an unbeliever, you have mediated between them and G-d. Yet, you have not undermined the sole mediation of Christ; you have partnered in His great reconciliation. The same goes for the intercessions and the mediations of the Virgin Mary and the saints in Heaven. Since we, as “G-d’s coworkers” in His field (1 Corinthians 3:9), are called to bear one another’s burdens, we are obligated to prayerfully intercede for eachother and to mediate in order to reconcile the Unbeliever to the Almighty by ministering the Mediation of Christ to them. As Catholics, we believe that these offices of duty are not abandoned once in Heaven, they are just taken to the next level.

It is often interpreted that by believing in the intercessions of Mary and the saints, that the Catholic Church does not believe you can go straight to Christ in prayer and that Mary and the saints become unnecessary middlemen in the process. On the contrary, we can always go to Christ first. In fact, we can always go to Christ alone. Yet, in order to enhance our communal love, as members of one body and as members of one another (Romans 12:5), we go to eachother in addition to going to Christ for help in prayer… in doing so, its not that we perceive Christ as supplemental or any less powerful, we just partake in His community on Earth as it is in Heaven. Additionally, Mary and the saints in Heaven are not obstacles in front Christ or in place of Christ; they are ministers that proceed from Christ, just as we all are.

In Deuteronomy 18:10-12 and in several other passages found in Mosaic Law, it becomes very clear that G-d’s people are forbidden from calling up the dead or from consulting with familiar spirits. This presents an obvious dilemma to the teaching of the Catholic Church, but the dilemma is not one of lawlessness it is one of distinction. These commandments were associated with the pagan practice of mediating spirits through a human medium to consult said spirits in real time… King Saul was guilty of this when he invoked the spirit of the Holy Prophet Samuel to seek advice through a Medium             (1 Samuel 28:8-19). Now, this law was never abandoned in Church practice.  It is still considered lawless to mediate familiar spirits or to call upon the dead. However, prayers to Mary are not considered pagan practices of necromancy. They cannot be because the principle applied here is that she is not dead.

Even with this faith-knowledge, the belief that the faithful departed are not actually departed can be difficult to understand for anyone. Take for instance the misunderstanding that a group of well-educated Teachers of the Law experienced in the Gospel according to John, chapter 8:

“Then the Jews answered and said to Him, ‘Do we not say rightly that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?’ Jesus answered, ‘I do not have a demon; but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. And I do not seek my own glory; there is one who seeks and judges. Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word he shall never see death.’ Then the Jews said to Him, ‘Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word he shall never taste death.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? And the prophets are dead. Who do you make yourself out to be?” (John 8:48-53)

So, as you can see, since those who keep Christ’s word never taste death, they do not actually die. Truly, G-d is the G-d of the living and not the dead and if we think otherwise, we are “greatly mistaken” (Mark 12:27).

Through the incarnation of the Messiah, the new life He offers in His atoning sacrifice and resurrection, and by keeping His word, we who die belonging to Christ, “no longer die… being sons of the resurrection” (Luke 20:36). The resurrection is the key to this discussion. It unlocks all things for G-d’s faithful and makes our faith worthwhile. As Paul puts it, “For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable” (1 Corinthians 15:16-19). So, in the next life we continue to take part in the hope of Christ. We continue in our lives of faith to bear one another’s burdens through ministry and prayer for those still on Earth – giving them much needed support to further spread the Gospel.

In conclusion, Catholics do not believe that Mary or the rest of the Saints in Heaven can hear our petitions due to the fact that they are omniscient or omnipresent. Actually, we really do not know the manner in which they hear our prayers. Still, we have faith that this facet of Christian community is preserved somehow by G-d because of its paramount importance to the oneness He desires from us, as the Body of His Son… even though its functionality is a mystery.

Further scriptural basis for intercessions:

Romans 15:30 – join me by your prayers to God on my behalf

Ephesians 4:3 – pray for us

Ephesians 6:18-19 – Never get tired of staying awake to pray for all God’s holy people, and pray for me to be given an opportunity to open my mouth and fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel

2 Thessalonians 1:11 – we always pray for you

2 Thessalonians 3:1 – finally, brothers, pray for us

Revelation 5:8 – angel offers prayers of the holy ones to God

Revelation 6:9-11 – martyrs under the altar want earthly vindication