Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” is by far one of my favorite songs. Period. I find the idea of a stairway important for its practical use and scriptural connection. On one hand, a staircase is an aid to get from one place to another. Perhaps, it even gets us there faster. On the other hand, the Prophets, Abraham, Moses all were a “middleman” to people entrusted to them boldly sharing God’s word.
With the declaration of Paul stating Jesus is the one mediator between God and men, there exists many who oppose the need for “additional” mediators if Christ is the sole mediator. They feel that extra mediation from saints takes away from Jesus’ role. Here is some helpful information to clarify the murkiness of this very common misunderstanding regarding the intercession of saints.
1) YES, Jesus is our unique and one of a kind mediator to God. Essentially, to be a mediator is someone who reconciles two parties that are estranged or in conflict How is mankind in conflict? By original sin. Jesus offered his life willingly to demonstrate he is the way, the truth, and the life to the Father. No one could ever atone for mankind’s sin in such a way that Jesus did. As St. Rose of Lima said: Apart from the cross there is no other ladder by which we may get to heaven (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 618).
2) We’re part of the Body of Christ. When one member lacks, it can damage the Body (1 Col. 12:26). As a result, we’re called to aid fellow Christians when they’re in need of support (Gal 6:1-2)
3) What better way to assist others than to pray for them. Jesus interceded for Peter (Lk 22:32), so if Jesus did it we certainly can too!
4) Death can’t separate us from Jesus (Rom 8:38-39).
5) Jesus said he is the God of the living, not the dead (Lk 20:38). The Bible has many instances when dead saints appeared. For example, Moses and Elijah did during the Transfiguration (Matt. 17:1-3). Not sure exactly how the disciples recognized these figures, but some form of divine aid allowed them to observe and identify these two men.
6) The Communion of Saints is an integral part of the Church, those Saints that are in heaven perfected in grace are capable of mediating on our behalf to God because of their proximity to Him. James said the prayers of the righteous are powerful and effective (Jam. 5:16), and what person isn’t more righteous than someone in heaven?
Overall, when Catholics ask for intercession, we’re keeping in mind all of these basic ideas. It’s essentially asking for someone closer to God to pray for us. Similar to us asking a friend for intercessory prayer.
Still, some think this practice is flat out superstitious. However, if someone asked a saint to pray on their behalf and God granted it, would that demonstrate the efficacy of their intercessory power and thereby make the practice of saint intercession valid? All you need is one time. Jesus rose from the dead only one time, so it’s totally acceptable to have at least one instance as credible. Thankfully, the countless number of saints that have miracles attached to them with no natural explanation is boundless!
Coming from across the aisle, I thought this practice was strange too. But, as Hebrews said, there exists a cloud of witnesses before us (12:1). As a result, we can walk our salvation race with confidence and assistance from friends in high places that bring us closer to God.
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