On 25/7/98, someone who signed his/her name as "Unknown (no email / no homepage )" left the following message in my guestbook:
"I just don't understand where catholics determine that Mary does ANYTHING for you. She is dead. THE BIBLE does not indicate in any way, shape form, or fashion that she can have any greater influence on your souls than any other dead person."
The following is the second part of my response to that message. There is a link to the first part at the end.
In your guest book entry you state that "The Bible does not indicate in any way, shape form, or fashion that (Mary) can have any greater influence on your souls than any other dead person." I disagree with that assertion. In this article I will give the Biblical basis for the Catholic belief that Mary and the rest of the saints do in fact act in Heaven on our behalf, and so can influence our lives.
Jesus Honors Mary
Mary is Jesus' Mother (Acts 1:14). The Bible says that Jesus was "born of a woman, born under the law" (Galatians 4:4). As a Jew He was required to observe the whole Law of Moses, which He did perfectly; more perfectly than any mere human being ever could.
Now the Law of Moses commands us to "Honor your father and mother" (Exodus 20:12). Jesus was bound to obey that command, and He did so perfectly. He honored God His Father and Mary His Mother. Being perfect, Jesus honored His Mother perfectly, better than we could ever honor our own mothers!
He could never have done anything to dishonor Mary, otherwise He would be disobeying the very Law He Himself had laid down on Sinai. This would make Him a sinner (James 2:10-12), and our Savior could never be a sinner (I John 3:5)! So Jesus must have always honored His mother Mary and never dishonored her in any way.
Mary is in Heaven
Most Protestants would agree with the subtitle of this section, but once in a while one hears an Evangelical say "How do you Catholics even know that Mary is in Heaven?" Well, the Bible certainly does not say she is in Hell (God forbid!), so why should we doubt that she is in Heaven?
Scripture reveals Mary to be a godly, virtuous woman; so much so that God the Son chose her for His Mother. Would Jesus choose to be born of a woman whom He knew would ultimately be damned? Or, to put it another way, would He choose not to predestinate His own Mother to go to Heaven? Salvation is a gift from God, not something we earn. Would the Savior refuse to save His own Mother? And if He did that, would He not be dishonoring His Mother? Since He is bound by His own Law to honor her, He could not possibly refuse her the gift of salvation!
Mary was most certainly saved by the grace of Jesus Christ; in fact she was filled with His saving grace, which is why the angel Gabriel called her "full of grace" (Luke 1:28). The Greek term here is kecharitomene, from the verb charitoo, which means "to fill or endue with grace". (The root of this verb is the noun charis, grace; the same word used in Ephesians 2:8, Romans 11:6 and Acts 15:11, among other passages, to refer to God's saving grace.)
Kecharitomene is a perfect present participle of charitoo. A perfect participle indicates an action completed in the past with existing results, and a present participle denotes a continuous, repeated action. So kecharitomene literally means "one who was completed in grace in the past and who continues to be full of grace". Hence the traditional translation "full of grace" is much more accurate than "highly favored", or any other such modern rendering.
The Bible never uses this particular tense of charitoo to refer to anyone but the Virgin Mary! She alone among all human persons is utterly embued with the grace of God. Since sin and grace are opposed (Romans 5:20-21), and grace saves us from sin (Eph 2:5, 8); Mary's fullness of grace would indicate a complete absence of sin (this is a biblical basis for Catholic belief in Mary's sinlessness).
This is obviously a gift she receives from God, since she does not fill herself with grace. Are we to believe that He who began this great work in Mary was unable to complete it (see Philippians 1:6)? Did He utterly fill her with grace in the beginning only to allow her to be damned in the end? No, the Savior perfected His work in Mary; she is now in Heaven with Him.
Mary Prays for Us
The Bible tells us that all Christians are one body in Christ (Romans 12:5; I Corinthians 12:12-14). It does not tell us that only Christians living on earth constitute that body. Jesus has conquered death, so it cannot separate us from Him (Romans 8:38-39). The Bible says that our deceased brethren are "asleep in Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 4:14). Christians on earth live in Christ, while those in heaven "sleep in Christ", but both are "in Christ"!
("Asleep" does not indicate that they are not conscious, as proponents of "soul sleep" claim. 2 Corinthians 5:8 says that deceased believers are absent from their physical bodies yet "present with the Lord". And in Philippians 1:21-23, Saint Paul writes "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain....For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better." The soul of a Christian clearly does not stay in the grave, but goes to stand before the presence of Jesus in Heaven.)
Now Christ does not have two separate bodies; one of living Christians and one of those "asleep in Christ". The Bible emphasizes that there is only one Body of Christ:
"So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another" (Romans 12:5)So the saints in heaven, though separated from us by physical death, are still united to us in the Body of Christ! The Bible says that when we become Christians:
"For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit." (I Corinthians 12:13)
"There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all." (Ephesians 4:4-6)
"Ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things that that of Abel." (Hebrews 12:22-24, emphasis mine)According to this passage, Christians have fellowship not only with God, Jesus and the Church on earth, but with "an innumerable company of angels" and "the spirits of just men made perfect", that is, the angels and saints in Heaven!
The blessed in Heaven are quite conscious and aware of what their brethren on earth are going through (Apocalypse/Revelation 6:9-11). Before Christ came, the souls of the Old Testament saints were waiting in an intermediary state known variously as "Sheol", "Limbo" or "Abraham's bosom" (see Luke 16:22). They did not know about or take part in the affairs of earth (see Psalm 88:12; Ecclesiastes 9:5) as they awaited the coming of the promised Messiah.
When Jesus came He ushered them into the glory of Heaven (Ephesians 4:7-10), where they could enjoy the Beatific Vision, seeing God "face-to-face". In Christ those in Heaven are aware of their brothers and sisters on earth, and they pray for them.
In his vision on Patmos, the Apostle John saw the twenty-four elders in heaven holding "golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints" (Apocalypse/Revelations 5:8). They were offering the prayers of the saints on earth like incense before God! This is biblical evidence that the saints in heaven intercede for the saints on earth. (Apocalypse/Revelation 8:3-4 indicates that the angels also intercede for us.)
Intercessory prayer is very pleasing to God (see I Timothy 2:1-4). He particularly loves it when His children come before Him as a group interceding for others (Matthew 18:19-20). If this true of the saints on earth, then why not of those in heaven as well? They are our brothers and sisters; they care about our well-being and salvation. They also pray on our behalf, and even join us in our prayers. This is why we Catholics ask the saints to pray for us.
The Bible says that our prayers can be hindered by sin or selfishness (James 4:3; I Peter 3:7). Since the saints are now with Jesus and free from sin (Romans 6:7), their prayers can actually be more efficacious than ours. They only ask for what they know to be God's will for His Church, so they are always heard, as the Bible says: "If we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him." (I John 5:14-15)
Now, Mary is among the saints in heaven, as we have seen. So all of this is true of her as well. She is united with us in the Body of Christ; she knows what we are going through, cares about us and prays to God for us. Since her prayers are untainted by sin or selfishness, God hears and answers her. Therefore the Blessed Virgin Mary does in fact influence our souls and our lives from heaven.
This is the Scriptural basis for the Catholic belief that Mary and the saints can help us by their prayers. I pray that you will someday learn and embrace this beautiful, Bible-based Christian truth.
All Bible passages were taken from the King James Version, since some Protestants use only that translation.
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