There is a common Protestant claim that there is one (sole) mediator between God and Man—Jesus. Therefore, they say, asking the saints to pray for us is useless, wrong, and maybe even sinful. Those who object, usually cite some of the following texts:
- For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all (1 Timothy 2:5).
- Come to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel (Hebrews 12:24).
- For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant (Hebrews 9:15).
To this claim, we should first answer that we do not teach a substitutional mediation in invoking the saints, as if we were trying to go to the Father apart from Jesus’ mediation.
Rather, we speak of a subordinate mediation, in which we seek the prayers of the saints, or of one another. For indeed we could have no communion with them or one another if it were not for Jesus Christ, who as the Head of the Body, the Church, unites all His members and facilitates our communion with one another.
Objectors seem to speak of there being one mediator in an absolute sense, excluding any other possible interaction or any subordinate mediation. But consider that if there is only one mediator in an absolute sense, then no one ought to ask ANYONE to pray for him; and neither should the objectors attend any church, read any book, listen to any sermon, or even read the Bible (since the Bible mediates Jesus’ words to you).
A “mediator” is someone or something that acts as a “go-between,” acting to facilitate our relationship with Jesus. And though Jesus mediates our relationship to the Father, He also asked Apostles, preachers, and teachers to mediate, to facilitate His relationship with us.
Thus Jesus sent Apostles out to draw others to him. St. Paul says, How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ (Rom 10:14-15, 17).
And thus Jesus has His relationship with us mediated through His Word and through the Apostles and others who announce that Word and draw us to Him.
But since some Protestants say that there is absolutely only ONE mediator, and no subordinate or deputed mediators, there is therefore no need to ask ANYONE or ANYTHING to mediate. So should they not burn their Bibles, stop asking anyone to pray for them, and seek no advice, since NO ONE can mediate a single thing? No one can do this because there is, as they say in an absolutely unqualified sense, only ONE mediator—one and only one.
But for those of us who see that there is a subordinated mediation in service of Christ’s supreme mediation, the prayers of others, preaching, and teaching all make sense. And just as the Bible can mediate His presence and will, or as a preacher can mediate His word, so too can the prayers of others (including the Saints) convey my prayers to Him. And Jesus can mediate my prayers to the Father and give graces to me by mediating them through others.
Consider the analogy of the body, since the Church is Christ’s Body. Jesus has one Body and all the parts are connected through the Head, who is Jesus. Now consider your own body. All the members of your body have communion and unity through your head, your mind. There are different ways to have interaction with others. Perhaps someone will reach you through your ears by speaking, or through the sense of touch by tapping you on the shoulder, or visually by waving. Various members of your body facilitate (mediate) interaction with others in different ways, but it is all facilitated through the head of your body, your mind. So, too, do I confidently expect to reach Jesus in different ways: directly, or through one of His members (realizing that He Himself facilitates it).
And thus for us Catholics, our relationship with Jesus is a rich tapestry of relationships with all the members of His body, those who are with us here and now as well as those who have gone on before us but remain members of the one Body, the Church, with Christ our Head.