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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Mediators in THE MEDIATOR

Mary holds a special place in our hearts as Catholics and that is because we believe that God gave her a special role both physically and spiritually to play in salvation history. We say that Mary does play the role of a mediator or intercessor, but let’s look at what Scripture has to say.

There does seem to be some controversy  when we speak like this about Mary and the other saints because it seems to conflict with what St. Paul says to Timothy.

 1 Timothy 2:5   For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.

So some people give us the objection of, “You all are going to the saints and Mary instead of going straight to God, which St. Paul is telling Timothy we need to do.”

We need to answer this objection by pointing out the context of 1Timothy, Chapter 2. Look how St. Paul tells Timothy to intercede on behalf of certain leaders for their ultimate salvation.

1 Timothy 2:1-4  First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men,  for kings and all who are in authority, in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.

So St. Paul is asking Timothy to pray to God on behalf of a third party. That is what we are doing with the saints in Heaven, asking them for their prayers.

Before we proceed any further, we should find if there are  any verses that suggest that one person can be a mediator of grace for another person.

Well, the ultimate example of this is Jesus HHimself who is a Man who received grace to give to the whole world. But St. Paul speaks of this in his letter to the Ephesians:

Ephesians 3:1-2 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles--   if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God's grace which was given to me for you; 

Ephesians 4:29    Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear.

So we can ourselves be mediators of God’s grace.

So then specifically with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, are there any times that we see her being a mediator?

I think there are at least three occurrences recorded in the Bible for us to ponder and each time they occur it is when Mary speaks. She only speaks four times in the Bible and three of those times it is pretty clear that she is speaking as a mediator.

Where is the first time?

The first time is at the Annunciation where the Archangel Gabriel comes to Mary on behalf of God the Father to see if she would be Mother to the Redeemer of the World.  She, of course, accepts and on behalf of the whole world brings Jesus into it.

Is Mary ever a mediator for the Holy Spirit?

We see this when Mary visits Elizabeth her cousin.

Luke 1:39-44    Now at this time Mary arose and went with haste to the hill country, to a city of Judah,   and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth.   And it came about that when Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.   And she cried out with a loud voice, and said, "Blessed among women are you, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!   "And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?   "For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy.

It is specifically at this moment that the Archangel Gabriel’s words to Zechariah are fulfilled when the angel said to him:

Luke 1:15   15 "For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and he will drink no wine or liquor; and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, while yet in his mother's womb.

This is the moment when St. John would receive the Holy Spirit, yet while still in his mother’s womb (good argument for infant baptism by the way). But what prompted his reception of the Holy Spirit – Mary’s greeting. Mary here is a mediator for the Holy Spirit.

The last one is obviously the wedding at Cana.

Yes, in John chapter 2 it says this:       

John 2:2-5    3 And when the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, "They have no wine."  4 And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what do I have to do with you? My hour has not yet come."  5 His mother said to the servants, "Whatever He says to you, do it."

Mary intercedes for the wedding party with her son who not only performs his first miracle with such splendor but it is a miracle that points us ultimately to the Cross where Jesus would make all mediatorship in him possible.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

You Put Your Right Foot In...

Every year on Holy Thursday we celebrate how Jesus gave us the Mass at the Last Supper. While we celebrate Mass every day, what we don’t do every day is wash peoples’ feet. What was the significance of Jesus doing this to the Apostles? Let us set the scene.

Before we look at John, who records the foot washing, we must look at Luke who tells of what the apostles were discussing.

Luke 22:23-30  And they began to discuss among themselves which one of them it might be who was going to do this thing.  And there arose also a dispute among them as to which one of them was regarded to be greatest.  And He said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called 'Benefactors.'  "But not so with you, but let him who is the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as the servant.  "For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table, or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves.  "And you are those who have stood by Me in My trials;  and just as My Father has granted Me a kingdom, I grant you  30 that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Jesus here is telling the Apostles that they must be men who are servants, just as Jesus is a servant. Notice also that He talks about them having a leadership role when He compares them with Kings and says how they will sit on thrones and act as judges. He is directly speaking to them, not just as Christians, but in their office as Apostles.

Jesus in the Gospel of John shows the same type of thing in Chapter 13:3ff:

 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God, and was going back to God,

Jesus came from God as an Authority, the Authority, and when His mission was completed He would return to the Father in Heaven. The Apostles in their ministry did this very thing. Jesus sent them out to preach the good news and cast out demons and they returned to give a report. Jesus Himself was an Apostle, St. Paul tells us:

Hebrews 3:1-2   consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession.   He was faithful to [God] who appointed Him.

I am just trying to establish here that the context is apostleship.

Continuing on and notice the detail that St. John gives: Listen to verse 4 and 5: Jesus rose from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself about.  Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.

I am going to include verse 12 here and you will see why in a minute.

 And so when He had washed their feet, and taken His garments, and reclined at the table again,

Notice again what Jesus does.  He takes off  His garments, puts on a towel and washes their feet with water and wipes them with the towel He has put on. When He has finished, He puts His own garments back on again.

Philippians 2:6-11    who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,   but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.   And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

So Jesus is exalted but then humbles Himself and then is exalted again. We have spoken before on this show how garments in the Bible represent glory. Jesus hides that glory and becomes a man and later resumes that glory. This is the symbolism of his garments. He takes off his garment and puts on that of a servant. Jesus then takes the dirt from the Apostles and puts it on Himself.  This points us to the Cross, where Jesus would suffer death on our behalf, only to rise again in glory on the third day.

Now while that is an allegorical interpretation of what has happened here, Jesus is doing more than just washing their feet. This is part of their ordination as priests.

Exodus 40:12, 13,  31, 32   "Then you shall bring Aaron and his sons to the doorway of the tent of meeting and wash them with water. "And you shall put the holy garments on Aaron and anoint him and consecrate him, that he may minister as a priest to Me. …And from it Moses and Aaron and his sons washed their hands and their feet.  When they entered the tent of meeting, and when they approached the altar, they washed, just as the LORD had commanded Moses.

What Jesus is doing is just what Moses was doing with the priests in his day. This is a part of their ordination. This is what we commemorate at the foot washing. We are reenacting the 12 Apostles ordination to the priesthood. It is for this reason of representing the original 12 Apostles that the church says that the 12 who are getting their feet washed need to be 12 men.

John continues in chapter 13 verse 6:

 And so He came to Simon Peter. He said to Him, "Lord, do You wash my feet?"  Jesus answered and said to him, "What I do you do not realize now, but you shall understand hereafter."  Peter said to Him, "Never shall You wash my feet!" Jesus answered him, "If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me."  Simon Peter said to Him, "Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head."

What Jesus says here points us back to the larger context of Jesus dying for us. It is as if Jesus is saying, “If you don’t let me die for you, Peter, then you won’t get Heaven.”  And Peter answers with, “ wash me all over then.”

Jesus continues:

 Jesus said to him, "He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you." For He knew the one who was betraying Him; for this reason He said, "Not all of you are clean." And so when He had washed their feet, and taken His garments, and reclined at the table again, He said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to   you.

Now recall back to Luke what the Apostles were discussing.  They were talking about who will be the greatest.   See what Jesus replies here in John:

 "Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master; neither is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. "If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.

So if God can get on His hands and knees and serve us, what then should the Apostles be like? Are they better than the master? No.

Now verse 20 keeps this whole event in kind of bookends:

 "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me."

This sounds similar to where Jesus in Luke says:

 Luke 10:16 "The one who listens to you listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me; and he who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me."

My point is that the context of the foot-washing is the ordination of the Apostles at the Last Supper and their sending forth, like the Son of God, to be servants to the world.
Here is the document that says that it should be men who get their feet washed.

The Preparation And Celebration Of The Easter Feasts
Congregation for Divine Worship

51. The washing of the feet of chosen men (Latin 'viri' - men) which, according to tradition, is performed on this day, represents the service and charity of Christ, who came "not to be served, but to serve.[58] This tradition should be maintained, and its proper significance explained.