Sunday, October 26, 2014

Mary as "Mediatrix": A Summary and Analysis of Fr. Hardon's Teaching

A thought-provoking teaching of the Catholic Church for many is the role of the Blessed Mother as “mediatrix.”  Admittedly, I, too,  prayerfully questioned this teaching and mulled over many sensible lines of thought regarding the Mother of God as “mediatrix.”  After reading Fr. John Hardon’s logical development and teaching on the subject, however, clarity has replaced confusion.
If we look beyond the Protestant theology of “total depravity,” man can, through the grace of free will, work in cooperation with God’s offer of grace.  Mary, the Mother of God, therefore, is rightly our mediatrix, for she, not being equal to or our Redeemer nor adding anything to His atonement, is our interposing friend between God and mankind. Our Lady as mediatrix, moreover, continues to intercede for us, the Church Militant, as we navigate the rough terrain of our salvation on earth.
Fr. Hardon’s first point is that Christ is the only mediator between humanity and God the Father: “Christ alone is our mediator by the fact that his death atoned for man’s sins, and his humanity is the channel of grace from God to the human race.” In calling Mary “mediatrix,” then, we do not strip away the unmatched mediation of Jesus between mankind and God the Father. Hardon also adds,“No one but the Savior unites in himself the divinity, which demands reconciliation, and the humanity, which needs to be reconciled.” Although Christ is our only mediator between God and man, lesser mediators are also part of our road to salvation.
As Catholics, we believe that after Adam’s fall we inherited his sin; however, we do not believe in total depravity.  After baptism, we are cleansed of original sin, our former self dies, and we are born anew into a life with Christ.  Mankind, therefore, is still capable (and required), by the grace of God, to willingly respond to and cooperate with divine grace.  In loving response, we collaborate by loving God above all things and our neighbor as ourselves. Cooperation with grace does not entail doing works for merit or earning our salvation, however. Acts of love are a required fruit of discipleship, showing our cooperation with God and evidencing our lives as followers of Christ. This loving action demonstrates our self mediation.  Through acts of love, therefore, we are subordinate mediators between ourselves and God.  Although our mediation is one of cooperation with God’s grace and Christ’s atonement, it is an offering to advocate and help others through works of love, whether it be intercessory prayer or physical aid. If we can self mediate, then, how much more can someone closest to God mediate for us?
Mary lived her life on earth in constant devotion to God and mediation for mankind. According to Fr. Hardon, “The Blessed Virgin enters as mediatrix par excellence [best of a kind]...she mediated for others, as well, by her vicarious assistance to the rest of mankind.” Christ’s mediation, according to the Second Vatican Council, is always primary. Mary’s mediation, like ours, is secondary. Mary’s mediation and intercession, however, are not only counted with that of the saints, but hers, according to Hardon, are “measurably more effective because she is the Mother of God with whom she pleads.” Who better to intercede for us with God than His mother?
Mary is our “mediatrix” not because she is equal to God the Son, for according to the Dogmatic Constitution of the Church, “no creature could ever be counted equal with the Incarnate Word and Redeemer.” Mary, like us, is a created being who willingly embraced God’s grace on earth and continually intercedes for humans in heaven, and “Mary’s mediation, therefore,” Fr. Hardon argues, “is a sheer gift of her Son...and no more detracts from Christ’s unique mediatorship than parenthood in human beings detracts from the unique fatherhood of the creator."

From The Catholic Catholicism by Fr. John Harding, S.J. (pages 165-168)

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Catechism of the Catholic Church #29: "The Scandal of Bad Example"

Reading through the Catechism of the Catholic Church this year, I plan to share my thoughts on certain passages, hoping that they both inspire others to read and study the teachings of the Church and provide meaning and clarity to those who already do.

     "To reconvert society is often more difficult than original evangelization," states Fr. John Hardon. When we bank on the scandal of bad example, for instance, we become part of the anesthetized and spiritually bereft.
      Presenting a poor example of Christian love sends a negative shock wave through the world of the faithful.  Many examples exist of "faithful" Catholics who use the Church and her teachings to scare people into submission.  For instance, there are professed Catholics who walk around with pious attitudes, but in their hearts they harbor hatred, and if given the opportunity, they readily talk about people behind their backs. In any church parking lot after Mass, in the pew as the faithful filter in to worship, and in many ministries run within the church, "the scandal of bad example" rears its poisonous head. The perpetrators are not just the laity, however. Many religious and ordained are guilty, too.  

      I have, unfortunately, seen the effects of "the scandal of bad example" on people at work who at least seriously question Catholics and their beliefs, many of them professed Christians. Their stories are all the same: They witnessed abusive "Catholics" using a false interpretation of doctrine to belittle others, win arguments, and impose ideologies.
     Catholicism is a faith of love, and if it becomes anything outside of love, it is not of God and certainly not what Christ taught in the first century.  As Catholic Christians, we are not only required to study and know our faith but to put it into proper practice, a practice that radiates the love of Christ.  We are, moreover, to follow St. Paul's advice in his letter to the Philippians:

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Sirach 43 and the Beauty of God's Creation

The New American Bible (2002) translates Sirach 43:2 as follows:
"The orb of the sun, resplendent at its rising: What a wonderful work of the Most High!"  

What an awe-inspiring image of the Creator at work, and this glorious illumination sums up the beauty of every "resplendent" red-orange sunrise I have ever seen.  This scripture reminds me of what Paul says in Romans 1:20, "Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made..." God's created beauty magnetically draws us toward Him. It is our choice, however, to co-operate with that spiritual draw.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

The Catechism of the Catholic Church: Many Faithful; Many Methods

In previously studying The Catechism of the Catholic Church, I either glossed over or blindly ignored the above important truth.  We are not all on the same spiritual plane of maturity; instead, we are at various stages of development and only able to grasp the eternal truth of this Magisterial teaching based on our current life position and spiritual stage. Teachers of Church doctrine, therefore, must be like St. Paul when he says,"To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, so that I might by any means save some (1 Corinthians 9:22)." Evangelization and teaching must convey charity first, knowing that not all the faithful can or are ready to grasp all truth. But through grace and the power of the Holy Spirit, the faithful will grow closer to Christ at the hands of care-filled, loving instruction. 
As a humble learners we need to adapt to the same principle.  There is objective truth, but because we are all not on the same level of spiritual maturity, the gift of acceptance and learning cannot come through our forcing or rejecting the issue. Accepting and internalizing revealed truth comes through grace, prayer, Scripture, the sacraments, and in God's loving time. The latter is sometimes difficult, for it requires patience and obedience to God's will. Other than our cooperation with grace, we are powerless to go beyond our spiritual position in life. It is through humility and personal surrender that we live a life devoted to Jesus Christ, knowing He will lead us to the next stage.  And in that stage, whether the path is full of thorns or roses, we will be drawn closer to Him.