The Tradition of Mediation
by Rev. Jerome A. Magat
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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Matthew wrote to show that Christ was the
Messiah and fulfilled the Jewish prophecies.
Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people: "What is your opinion? A man had two sons. He came to the first and said, 'Son, go out and work in the vineyard today,' He said in reply, 'I will not,' but afterwards he changed his mind and went. The man came to the other son and gave the same order. He said in reply, 'Yes sir,' but did not go. Which of the two did his father's will?" They answered, "The first." Jesus said to them, "Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you. When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did. Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him.
In this week’s Gospel account, Greek visitors to Jerusalem request to see Jesus. They approach St. Philip the Apostle with this request. The name “Philip” is a Greek name and Philip himself probably understood Greek and served as an interpreter on their behalf. In reply, Philip seeks out Andrew and together they approach Jesus on behalf of the Greeks. This is not an insignificant moment because this may have been the first time that persons from the Greek world have sought Jesus. In any case, the encounter between the Greeks and Jesus comes about through the mediation of two apostles.
For the Jews, the idea of mediation was very familiar. The entire priestly cult exercised at the temple was predicated upon the mediation of the priest, who would offer sacrifice to God on behalf of the people. Jesus would continue the theme on His own passion, death and resurrection – mediating the redemption of the entire world on our behalf to the Father. Priests, acting in the person of Christ, serve as mediators between God and men in regards to the sacred mysteries of the Catholic faith, especially in the celebration of the sacraments. The concept of mediation in regards to worship and salvation is part of God’s plan. When it comes to our salvation, mediation is not a “man-made” concept. Scripture is replete with stories of God selecting mediators to act on His behalf to save the human family. In our own contemporary experience, how often do we rely upon the mediation of others? For example, when a man seeks out a woman romantically, he often asks her friends for an introduction. Similarly, when someone desires employment, it is a common practice to ask for a reference from a friend within the company who can arrange for an interview.
Philip and Andrew’s mediation serves as a valuable lesson for those who reject the notion other men can and should mediate between God and men. There are those whom with whom the idea of mediation is uncomfortable. Whether it is the Blessed Virgin Mary’s title of Mediatrix of all Graces or the mediatory role that priests serve in the sacraments, many object and claim that they need only go directly to God – they have no need of a third party to mediate on their behalf. When pressed to celebrate the sacrament of penance, they claim, “I don’t need to tell the priest my sins. I go directly to God.” This rejection of mediation implicitly rejects the aforementioned mediation Christ rendered for us to the Father at Calvary. It also discounts the truth about the human person: that he is made for communion and cooperation with others. Seeking a mediator requires humility; hence it is difficult for many persons to accept. And yet, this is precisely how Jesus chose to render our salvation – as mediator.
The Greeks who approach Philip in an attempt to encounter Jesus make one simple request. They say, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” As disciples of the Lord and persons who may serve as portals or access points for others to encounter Jesus, we are tasked with the responsibility of making Jesus easy to see and encounter by the manner of the sanctified lives we lead. Like Philip and Andrew who swerve as catalysts for the encounter between the Greeks and Jesus, may we commit to making the path to Jesus easy for others to take so that they may encounter the Lord and be saved.
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