July 7, 2013

The One Mediator

Yesterday someone challenged me on Twitter with regard to devotion to the saints, asserting that such amounted to necromancy. In the course of things she or he adduced 1 Timothy 2:5,

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.

Now I usually try to stay out of such discussions on Twitter--not that I reject the challenge of presenting the catholic and apostolic faith through whatever medium presents itself; indeed, this is the work of anyone who presumes to preach the Gospel. It's just that at the level of tense apologetics, I don't always feel like Twitter is the best place, or at least I'm not sure I know how to do it very well there. And indeed, I was sorry for getting into the exchange yesterday.

Nevertheless, I got to thinking about the question, and I realized how bad I felt about the way the senses of Jesus Christ and of Church have become so impoverished in certain forms of Christianity. For the unique mediation of Jesus Christ, that he is the one mediator between God and human beings, doesn't invalidate our prayers for one another or our hope in the prayers of the saints, but is, in fact, the truth that gives us hope in these things.

For who is this 'man Christ Jesus' of whom Paul speaks? He is first of all the historical life of Jesus of Nazareth, a human life that happened when the eternal and only-begotten Word of God borrowed our humanity through the blessed consent of Mary. The Son of God incarnate journeyed as this humanity through the suffering and death that the same humanity has insisted upon for itself with its sins, bearing it into the new creation of the Resurrection. The Risen Lord, continuous with the historical life of Jesus of Nazareth, then appears as the glorified humanity of Christ that is the end and purpose of all creation, drawing us all towards himself through the faith and sacraments into which he is risen.

It is in these same sacraments that we are made members of Christ and are built into the Church that is his body. We are baptized into his death and Resurrection; in the Eucharist in which he gives us his sacrificed Body and Blood for our nourishment, our communion with him and with each other as his members is renewed and confirmed. Since this communion is founded on the Resurrection, by definition a love stronger than death, it unites the pilgrim Church on earth with the Church at rest in heaven, such that we become, in Christ, the universal Church.

And so when we pray, we pray in Christ. Our joy and confidence is precisely this, that Jesus Christ has gathered all of our prayers and sacrifices into his one prayer, into the one sacrifice of the one priesthood. He is the one mediator between God and human beings, and our joy is that he has joined our prayer and devotion to his own.

So it turns out that 1 Timothy 2:5 does not invalidate our hope in the prayers of the saints, but in fact something more like the opposite; for whenever I ask another Christian to pray for me, whether he be here on earth or already among the saints in heaven, I am, in fact, confessing the truth that Jesus Christ is the one mediator between God and human beings who has built us into the Church that is his Body, a Body in which his one Sacrifice lives and breathes and blesses in all of the little prayers and sacrifices of us, his baptized members, as it stretches out in time from the day of the Lord's Passion and death to the final fulfillment of creation when Jesus comes again in glory.

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