Reflection: Power of Intercession
by Father Don Thomas
"Intercession" is another word or topic that has been the source of great confusion, misunderstanding and contradiction over the years, as far as religion is concerned. May the following lines illustrate this fact in such a way that everyone can judge for himself or herself.
Many times through the years I have heard people discussing religion in a kind and tolerant manner and say something to the effect that "the big difference I see between your church and my church is that in our church we pray to God directly, while in your Catholic Church or your Anglican or Episcopalian Church you pray to God indirectly through the Virgin Mary or St, Joseph, St. Anthony, St. Jude and many others. In our church, if we need something, we just go to God, the Father, or to Jesus Christ, His Son, and ask for it. We do not see any need for a Middle-Man, and the Bible does point out very clearly that there is only one Mediator or Middle-Man, and that is Christ. To have anyone else intercede for us is unnecessary and uncalled for.
Quite clearly stated is their position. But is it true and consistent as far as the exercise of their faith is concerned? Personally, I do not think so, and I would like to tell you why in a logical and charitable manner. This is no attempt to mock, ridicule or put down any religion. This is all about clarification of theological stances. If praying to God directly is insisted upon, and if praying to God indirectly is frowned upon or discouraged, why is that in practically all churches, when there is a tragedy involving an individual or a family or a number of families, the priests and the ministers on Sunday morning ask all the people to pray for the families or the victims of floods, fires, hurricanes, and other disasters. They are doing the right thing, but why are they asking other people to pray for them if they believe only in praying to God directly? Why are they asking these people to intercede with God to bless them? If people believe in only one Mediator or Middle-man, and if it is Jesus Christ, why do non-Catholics go to their ministers to get baptized or to receive Communion or to go to the hospital and visit and pray for their sick?
They are definitely doing the right thing because actually they are following the challenges of God in Scripture and are simply serving as effective instruments of God.
Another point to reflect upon is that when it comes to the forgiveness of sin, there is a blatant contradiction inour positions. It is true to believe that only God can forgive sin. Non-Catholics believe this and so do all Catholics. The big difference is that Catholics believe that God can do anything and everything, and if He decides to use a priest as an instrument for the forgiveness of sin, who are we to deny that? He clearly states this in Scripture where we read that on the first Easter Sunday He delegated the power for men to forgive sins in His Name.
Ministers are used by God to forgive sins in His name every time they baptize a person. Use the Protestant Bible to check it out and you will find that it clearly states that "through Baptism we are buried with Christ in a death to sin so that we may rise to a new kind of life" — the grace of God. Is it the minister or the priest who forgives that sin in which we are all conceived or is it God?. It is most certainly God, but He uses the hands of the minister, the voice of the minister to administer the rite, but God does the forgiving. God alone can forgive sins. Most definitely! But He can forgive sins directly as He shows frequently in Scripture, and He does not need the help of any man or woman, but if He reveals that He wants to use men or women as His instruments for the forgiveness of sin, who are we to say He can't.
If we want to understand or at least think about God's plan for the forgiveness of sin, let us think about the following "parallel" that might help us. Just as we do for the forgiveness of sin, we now ask the question: "Who alone can create life"? Everyone seems to answer "God", and we say that is true. But let us consider God's plan for the production of life. When He created the first man and woman, God did not need anyone's help. He did it all by Himself, he did it directly. This was also true when the Baby Jesus was formed directly by God in the womb of the Virgin Mary. But ordinarily, how is life produced? God uses the bodies of men and women as instruments in producing life. The distinction, therefore, that we must make is that God can produce life directly or indirectly.
Now, if we apply that to forgiving sin, it is also clear that God can forgive sin directly or indirectly by using men or women as His instruments. In winding this up, let me clearly state that millions of Catholics pray to God directly. How more direct can one get than say "Our Father, Who art in heaven"? Or go to Mass some day and listen to the opening of each prayer: " 0 God, our loving Father", etc.... Again, how much more direct can one get?
It is a wise person who can see value in praying to God directly or indirectly. Maybe because Jesus could foresee this confusion in our society, maybe that is why He Himself gave us a wonderful example of intercessory power when He told us that if we ask His Father for anything in His name, His Father would give it to us.
Because we might reject the idea of intercession, are we supposed to say to Jesus that we don't have to ask the Father for anything in His name, because we will just ask the Father directly. No, there is tremendous and infinite power in the Name of Jesus. We would all be wise to take advantage of it.
Finally, I would like to challenge you to take a good look at the following words, used by the minister or priest in Baptism, or the words used by the priest in Confession or Reconciliation. It is eminently clear that the minister and priest are simply instruments in both cases, as they are acting in the name of God who actually does the forgiving of sin in both Baptism and Confession. Here are the words:
(Name), I baptize you In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Through the ministry of the church, May God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
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