We have spoken on this show before of why we have statues of saints and angels in our churches. Yet we have never spoken of why we have those particular statues of those saints. Ultimately why do we honor saints?
We honor the saints because God honors the saints and they are worthy of our honor.
Now what do I mean when I say that God honors the saints? I mean that our whole religion is about having a relationship with God. It is a real relationship. It can grow in warmth and fire or grow cold and die.
God honors us by letting us be made in his image. That is one way he honors us. Another way is by stooping down to speak with us in our fallen state. Most of the time God responds in a still small voice, but other times it is with great pomp.
Let’s looks at the Joseph from the OT in Egypt. The Pharaoh has had a dream and no one can tell him the meaning except for Joseph.
Genesis 41:38-43 Then Pharaoh said to his servants, "Can we find a man like this, in whom is a divine spirit?" So Pharaoh said to Joseph, "Since God has informed you of all this, there is no one so discerning and wise as you are. "You shall be over my house, and according to your command all my people shall do homage; only in the throne I will be greater than you." And Pharaoh said to Joseph, "See I have set you over all the land of Egypt." Then Pharaoh took off his signet ring from his hand, and put it on Joseph's hand, and clothed him in garments of fine linen, and put the gold necklace around his neck. And he had him ride in his second chariot; and they proclaimed before him, "Bow the knee!" And he set him over all the land of Egypt.
Now hold on a second. Joseph tells him what the dream means and then gets to be second in command of the most power nation on earth at the time? Why is that? Why does he get so much honor?
I answer that Pharaoh is only honoring Joseph in such a way because he thinks that God is honoring Joseph in such a way. Seriously how many people can interpret someone else’s dream and be correct? We all speak to God, but here it is clear that Joseph has a special relationship with God where God in a very loud way speaks back. Pharaoh is just honoring that relationship. Not only that, but by honoring Joseph, he is honoring God as well.
Here is another example but more extreme. King Nebuchadnezzar has a dream and it is important enough that he asks his own wise men to tell him the dream and the interpretation. They protest and say you tell us the dream and we tell you the interpretation. King Nebuchadnezzar say no you tell me the dream and the interpretation or you will be put to death! I imagine that they were saying to themselves – we didn’t learn this in wise man’s school.
Yet Daniel comes after some time in prayer and tells the king BOTH the dream and the interpretation. Here is how the King responds:
Daniel 2:46-48 Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell on his face and did homage to Daniel, and gave orders to present to him an offering and fragrant incense. The king answered Daniel and said, "Surely your God is a God of gods and a Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, since you have been able to reveal this mystery." Then the king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts, and he made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon.
Again, why such an intense response? I think it is because of Daniel’s association with God. This man is so close to God that God reveals to him the dreams of Kings AND their interpretation. I want to honor that relationship and so he does.
St. Paul tells us to do the same thing
1 Timothy 5:17 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.
We know that some people get honor – God tells us in the fourth commandment to honor our father and mother. But Saint Paul tells us to give someone double honor.
This is exactly why we honor the saints. Because it is God who has made them saints. We are just recognizing His handy-work, and by honoring His work in them, we are honoring God.
Imagine a man who has dedicated his life to learning about Bach or Mozart but feared to listen to their music because they thought it would interrupt their studies of these men?
Or falling in love with a woman but refusing to meet her family and friends fearing it might interfere with your relationship with the woman?
None of this makes sense. The same is true when we refuse to honor those people that God has honored with His relationship with them namely the saints in heaven.
I call this elevation through association. The saints are elevated because of their relationship with God. They are elevated by both God and people who recognize their relationship.
This elevation through association is even natural. Let’s say that I had in my phone the actor Harrison Ford’s phone number. One day you are flipping through it and you say to me, “why in the world do you have his number in your phone.”
I explain we use to be neighbors and we see him on major holidays or something like that. Well automatically, your idea of me would change a bit. Because Harrison Ford is honored as a good actor, you would naturally look on me as honored too because of my relationship to him.
If I had the Pope’s phone number your idea of me would be raised even further because we give more honor to the Pope than to Harrison Ford.
This is elevation through association. The same is true with the saints. We honor them because of who they are associated with namely God.
Finally listen to what God told Abraham.
Genesis 12:3 And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."
What if I honor Abraham today will I be blessed – Yes. Because ultimately I am honoring God and his work.
His greatest work being Our Lady who is certainly the most associated with God then anyone in creation. That is my we give her the most honor. But not worship. Only God gets that.