Remembering Our Many Mediators

Remembering Our Many Mediators

If a family member or friend were to come to a believing Christian requesting his prayers, would he say, “Go pray directly to God. You don’t need me.”? Of course not! In charity, he would readily agree, and take to his knees!  

While we certainly believe in the value of one praying to God directly, we also recognize the value in having others pray, or act as intercessors or mediators, between someone besides ourselves and God.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, intercessory prayer is “a prayer of petition that leads us to pray as Jesus did. He is the one intercessor with the father on behalf of all men, especially sinners.” (2634) 

St. Paul (Romans 8:34) asks, “Who will condemn? It is Christ [Jesus] who died, rather, was raised, who also is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.” 

In 1 Timothy 2:5-6, Paul tells us, “There is one mediator between God and the human race, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself as ransom for all.” 

St. John the Apostle (1 John 2:1) warns us not to commit sin, but notes that if we do, “We have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one.” 

Christ is our mediator, or advocate, but others can participate in Christ’s role as mediator. We have many examples of this in both the Old and New Testaments.  In Ezekiel 22:30, we read, “Thus I have searched among them for someone who would build a wall or stand in the breach before me to keep me from destroying the land; but I found no one.”

When we act as intercessors, or an extension of Christ’s role as mediator, we are doing something for someone else, filling that breach or gap. The Catechism continues, “In intercession, he who prays looks ‘not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others,’ even to the point of praying for those who do him harm.” (2635)

We have many examples of such secondary mediatorship in the Old Testament.  In the Book of Job, God is angry with Job’s friends who “have not spoken rightly concerning me, as has my servant Job” (Job 42:7). God tells Eliphaz the Temanite:

“So now take seven bulls and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves, and let my servant Job pray for you. To him I will show favor, and not punish your folly, for you have not spoken rightly concerning me, as has my servant Job. Then Eliphaz the Temanite, and Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite, went and did as the LORD had commanded them. The LORD showed favor to Job. (Job 42:8-10)

The LORD also restored the prosperity of Job, after he had prayed for his friends; the LORD even gave to Job twice as much as he had before.” 

So, through Job’s prayer and sacrifice, God forgave Job’s friends and did not punish them.

We have many examples of intercession in the New Testament as well. In the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, we’re told the story of the paralyzed man who was healed by Jesus. Jesus was speaking inside a house, and the crowds were so great that the men carrying the paralyzed man on a stretcher of some kind were unable to get in to see Jesus. So, using some ingenuity, they climbed to the roof of the house, created an opening, and lowered the man down before Jesus. Jesus declares the man’s sins forgiven, to the consternation of the scribes sitting nearby, and then heals the man’s ailment to demonstrate to all that He does indeed have the power to forgive sins.

Let me call your attention to this line of the story, when Christ (Mark 2:5) first lays eyes on the man, and sees his friends lowering him down from the roof: “When Jesus saw their  faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Child, your sins are forgiven.’” [emphasis added]

So, Jesus forgave and healed the paralyzed man not for the man’s own faith, but for the faith of his friends.

We see another example of the effectiveness of intercessory prayer in Acts, when persecution of the new Christian community by the authorities intensified. King Herod had the Apostle James, the brother of John, “killed by the sword.” (Acts 12:2)  He ordered Peter, whom we Catholics believe was the first pope and the leader of the Apostles, arrested and kept in prison under heavy guard.  However, “Prayer by the church was fervently being made to God on his behalf.” (Acts 12:5) God sent an angel to release Peter and lead him out of the prison. When Peter realized what was going on, he said, “Now I know for certain that [the] Lord sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people had been expecting.” (Acts 12:11)

MARY

After Christ Himself, our greatest mediator is Mary. The wedding feast at Cana gives us a wonderful illustration of her unique role. (John 2:1-11) Jesus, Mary and some of His disciples attend a wedding celebration, perhaps of a member of Jesus’ extended family. The joy and mirth of the celebration is threatened as the supply of wine runs out. Mary, without telling Jesus what to do, calls His attention to the problem: “They have no wine.” (John 2:3)

Jesus’ response may initially sound harsh, and suggests that He is not going to do anything to help: “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.” (John 2:4) 

But Jesus proceeds to change six large jars of water to wine to the astonishment of the headwaiter, who was unaware of Jesus’ role. The headwaiter noted, “Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now.” (John 2:10)

So, Jesus performs His first miracle, changing His timetable of beginning to reveal who He was, at the request of His mother to save this young couple from a social embarrassment! And, not only does He supply wine, but it is outstanding wine! How many wine connoisseurs of today would have enjoyed a glass!

Mary also plays a unique role in the conversion of hearts. It is the opinion of many spiritual writers that the remarkable conversion of the Good Thief on the cross, after what we can imagine must have been a life of sin, was due to the presence and intercession of Mary: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom … Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:42-43)

The Good Thief is known now as St. Dismas, and himself has gone on to be an intercessor for others, particularly the incarcerated.

Mary and all the saints can be our powerful intercessors in heaven. God does not have to use their mediatorship, but He wills it. We know their prayers are pleasing to Him, and favorably influence Him. We are told, “Another angel came and stood at the altar holding a gold censer. He was given a great quantity of incense to offer, along with the prayers of all the holy ones, on the gold altar that was before the throne.” (Rev 8:3-4) The smoke of the incense along with the prayers of the holy ones went up before God from the hand of the angel.”

So, when you pray, by all means address your prayers directly to your Father in heaven. But also remember to take advantage of the many mediators who can help us, including Christ Himself, the good angels and saints, and even prayerful family members and friends. I think you will find it most beneficial to your spirituality!

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Written by
Deacon Steve Greco