Answering Those Who Say There Is Only One Mediator

blog 8.20.15There 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.

23 Replies to “Answering Those Who Say There Is Only One Mediator”

  1. I love reading this blog every day… Thank you Very much for writing it!

  2. With Protestants, i hear the biggest objection is Mary. For they often say that they know Catholics who idolise Mary and consider her equal to Christ. So, it involves a hefty amount of explaining and agreeing with the part about some Catholics who do indeed claim these things and sometimes more for Mary. Very difficult, but it can be done with time, prayer, patience, tact and knowledge of Church teachings.

    Sometimes Father, we as Catholics are our own worst enemy. In the process, we help foster and nurture the things that divide us from our Protestant brethren. i personally know and have observed the attraction, prayers statuary, relics etc that adorn homes. Homes where Jesus is rarely mentioned, but boy, that favored saint sure is.

    All this to say, we must follow Church teachings on these things and remember your very sage words: “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”

    1. Candida,
      Consider the following biblical texts:
      – Luke 2:35 (Simeon speaking to Mary): “And you, yourself shall be pierced with a sword–so that the thoughts of many hearts may be laid bare.”
      – John 19: 25-27. Mary is present at the Crucifixion and death of Jesus. How do you think she felt? Would she feel like she had been pierced with a sword at the violent death of her Son?
      – John 2: 1-11. Jesus has been known to work a miracle at the request of His mother. Do you know any adults who are willing to provide a favor for a third party because their mother asked them to?

      Which does NOT mean that we consider any of the saints (officially declared by the Church to be in Heaven, therefore friends of Jesus) nor the Blessed Virgin Mary (the Mother of Jesus) to be the equal of Jesus, Who is (after all) God, the second person of the Blessed Trinity. And if St. Augustine couldn’t understand the Trinity after considerable meditation, I’ll content myself with accepting that God as Trinity, and all Three Persons, exist and are worthy of Adoration and all worship. I don’t have to understand something in order to accept it.

    2. Sadly, there are those very cultural Catholics who do seem to idolize Mary!

      A grandmother I know explained to me that she “isn’t worthy to speak directly to Jesus or God, that’s why she prays only to Mary.” She and another friend of hers can explain almost every Marian apparition there has ever been, approved and unapproved! Others who are not as devoted as they get labeled as, “Hating Mary”! Along with confusing others, these ideas have been used to attack those who won’t accept their determine prostilyzing.

      It’s so sad and unhealthy for those who struggle with this type of unhealthy determination, which can become a perversion of all the our Church is and has to offer.

      I pray daily to my “Mommy” Mary that she will open these hearts to all her Son has to show them and offer to them, and to help them know His love fully.

  3. Thank you Msgr, I love your explanations of the Faith. I share a great many of them on FB with my Protestant family and friends although I am very disgusted with FB for what they’ve done to you and others. I have considered deleting my FB account but it’s been somewhat of a small apostolate for sharing the faith as I said with family and friends as I am the only Catholic in my whole family. Do you know who we could contact to lodge a protest of their hypocritical treatment of Christians vs non-Christians?

    1. Consider too trying I have established an account there. It is a facebook like alternative for Catholics. Many others are joining

  4. None of the disciples ever mention themselves or mary being mediators for Christ. It is interesting that you have brought up passages to support the side of the protestant belief, and yet for your own belief you use your own words and use only one verse that is ripped out of context and not pertaining to the subject at hand. There are plenty more verses in the old and new testament supporting the viewpoint of the Protestant faith.

    Hebrews 7:25 Therefore he is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf.

    1. I don’t really follow your objections here. But I don’t call my myself a mediator, no one I know does. We are only responding to the Protestant claim that there is only one mediator. If that be the case, and mediator means what it does, then you don’t even need a bible since you and Jesus are in direct line, and he can talk to you directly. The fact is there are many ways that Jesus mediates his relationship with us, incl scripture, preachers, teaches evangelists et al. So what is being set aside here is an absolute sense of the phrase “one mediator.”

  5. In my too many odd years on this earth, I have never heard anyone (including fellow catholics) elevate Mary to the level of her Son. I have heard many, many Protestants toss out that accusation, however. It’s almost like a “talk to the hand” move on their part.

    It’s really quite sad, when you think about it. Mary (as a human) offers us such rich graces by her example of obedience to and love for and faith in God. To dismiss her is to become willfully blind to those graces. Her example of suffering with her Son, we can draw so much from that.

    But to some Protestants (not all of course) they do not want to invest in this. These same folks think they don’t need religion, that all they need is to read their bible and they’re good to go. They take a easy approach to Christianity and miss the point entirely.

    They need our prayers, and the prayers of the saints.

    1. Unfortunately, i have heard it out of the mouth of Catholics both here and offline. I tell my Protestant brethren that Mary, in and of herself is highly worthy of our love and respect. I point out, since they love and rely on Scripture, that Mary is the model of humility and grace. Of stellar obedience to our God. “Be it done unto me according to thy word” That she in fact, IS the mother of God. Then, if they bring up her Immaculate Conception, i educate them with the fact that Mary was immaculately conceived. When they rear up in indignation, i quietly ask them to consider the impossibility of the living God, being born within sinful flesh.

      We can and do make significant headway with our separated brethren using cold logic, Scripture, and inviting them to join us in looking deeper into it all. Something my fellow Catholics seem loath to do. So, it is not always about simply preconceived notions. Too many of us have been so poorly catechised that we simply do not recognise that what we are doing and saying is wrong. Thankfully, by the graces and mercy of God, this is beginning to be recognised and addressed.

      1. Candida, I couldn’t agree more.

        My experience with Protestants of late are with the “God is in the trees” kind, who reject any and all organized religion. I haven’t met a regular service going Protestant in years and the only one that springs to mind converted to Catholocism.

        We have a large population of Muslims where I live, and they are all obedient to their faith. Such amazing differences.

      2. we are called just as the Desipeles were. The more we learn about Catholicism the better we can present the one true church. Don’t forget that the word “Catholic” means Universal.

    2. Yes, I have known some Prodestants who claim we worship Mary. They for get that at cross Jesus says in John 19:26-27 26″When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he love, He said to his mother”Woman behold your son. 27 then he said to the disciple “Behold your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.”

  6. It’s simple really.

    The whole of what Scripture says about mediation is that Jesus is the mediator of a new covenant, as Moses (whose sister’s name was Miriam) was the mediator of the old. A covenant is a public treaty. Theophilus, to whom Luke’s Gospel was addressed, was a public official and would have had no difficulty in seeing Gabriel and Mary as ambassadors of God and Joseph (the Head of the House of David) concluding a treaty between heaven and Israel. Thus Mary is Mediatrix, acting for her royal husband.

    The treaty then had to go forward to the King for ratification. But by the time the ratification procedure commenced 40 days after Jesus’ birth, there had been a succession to the Throne so that Jesus was King of both High Contracting Parties. Thus He is the one Mediator.

    The Presentation is the first state of a process of which the Crucifixion was the completion – a public sacrifice of redemption and public worship. For a lawful sacrifice you need a lawful priest, a worthy victim and a public attendance. Jesus provided the first two, and Our Lady provided the third since, as Crown Princess, she was a public person. That makes her Co-Redemptrix, for without her presence the sacrifice would have been defective and she would have violated her duty to worship her Creator.

    Look at the pattern from the end of 2 Chronicles 5 through the beginning of chapter 7. Solomon sets the pattern for Jesus’ public ministry – he speaks to the people, then prays for himself and for the people, and all this is book-ended by two manifestations of the Divine Glory.

  7. @ Michael Petek:
    “Theophilus” may be a pseudonym. In Greek, Theos is God; and philus is Friend.
    So Theophilus may be translated as “Friend of God”; or “Lover of God”.
    My understanding is that in the dialog in John 21: 15-17 when Jesus is asking Peter “Do you love Me?” that He has three choices in Greek to express the verb translated by the English word “Love”. One is “Eros” (not appropriate in context); one is “Philia” (brotherly love), which is how Peter responds; and one is “Agape”, which refers to the self-sacrificial love in John 15:13 “There is no greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
    Again, I know little Greek, but my understanding is that Jesus asks Peter the first two times “Do you Agape Me?”, and Peter responds with the Philia response. The third time Jesus may be using the Philia question to Peter, responding to Peter’s existing limitations.

  8. When I ask someone to pray for me, I am not praying to them. I don’t offer up praise for God, confess my sin, and the appeal to Scripture simply to ask a friend to pray.

    Plus, how do you know departed saints will hear you “prayers”? These people are dead. They are finite and don’t have ears. And if you think they can hear your prayer requests, why also don’t they see everything you do and report that to Jesus? Why is this veneration of saints only a reassuring proposition? Why doesn’t it ever backfire and make you feel guilty, diminished, ashamed?

    1. Why do you say they are dead? Jesus said to the Sadducees who made just your remark that God is a God of the living not of the dead. As for how they can hear us, The Lord facilitates this all the members of the Body of Christ are one. The Book of Revelation describe the dead as interceding for us. Hebrews calls them witnesses. Etc.

  9. As far as mediation, I’ve read before that “sole mediator” is referring to final salvation. We have only JESUS that can present us to the FATHER. No one else gets us into Heaven but JESUS. I think the Protestants and so called non-denominationals miss this understanding like they do so with so many other issues.

    Just ask a non Catholic Christian on what or whose authority did they determine that the Bible is 66 books. The answers are all over the place and not based on scripture.

    Thank you Monsignor.

  10. Msgr Pope:

    This very widespread error which you so charitably and thoroughly refute has yet another subtle and sinister implication. Not only does it completely misstate what is actually in view, it also insults Our Lady by suggesting that she would accept the homage and adoration due to God alone. The most perfect disciple in history is thus unjustly maligned as somehow being in competition with her Son.

    St Peter and the Apostles were discipled by Our Blessed Lord for 3 years; Mary spent 30 years with Him, after participating the most intimate way in the miraculous events of the Annunciation and the Nativity. She has been there and done that, so even without taking into account her Immaculate Conception, it is an enormous affront for her to be treated with such disdain; she who is “our fallen nature’s solitary boast.”

  11. One mediator, countless intercessors.

    “I desire therefore, first of all, that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men:” 1 Timothy 2:1

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