(How wonderful
is God among his saints, come Let us adore Him)
      Holy Mother Church
celebrates today, the Solemnity of All Saints. As Catholics, we profess this
belief in the Communion of Saints often in the Creed at Mass. Today I shall
elaborate on the concept of saints and their intercessory roles (this does not
undermine the role of Jesus Christ as the Mediator of the New Covenant), and
equally clarify the misconception that the saints are “dead” and cannot hear us.
But then, what is a saint?
Saints, broadly speaking, are all people who follow
Jesus Christ and live their lives according to His teaching. Catholics,
however, also use the term more narrowly to refer to especially holy men and
women who, by persevering in the Christian Faith and living extraordinary lives
of virtue, have already entered Heaven. The word saint” comes from the Latin “sanctus” and literally
means “holy.” Throughout the New Testament, saint is used to refer to all who believe in Jesus
Christ and who followed His teachings. Saint Paul often addresses his
epistles to “the saints” of a particular city (see, for
instance, Ephesians 1:1 and2 Corinthians 1:1).  With time, it became clear that some Christians lived
lives of extraordinary, or heroic, virtue, beyond that of the average Christian
believer. While other Christians struggled to live out the gospel of Christ,
these particular Christians were eminent examples of the moral virtues
(or cardinal virtues), and they practiced the theological virtues of faithhope, and charity and exhibited the gifts of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Consequently, the word saint, previously applied to all Christian
believers, became more narrowly applied to such people, with the belief
that they are being rewarded in heaven, as such they were venerated after their
deaths as saints, usually by the members of their local church or the
Christians in the region where they had lived, because they were familiar with
their good deeds.
If we believe that the saints are in heaven, can
they really hear us? Although some might say that they are dead. Consider the
brethren often say that the saints in heaven cannot even hear our prayers,
making it useless to ask for their intercession. However, this is not true. The
saints are not dead, they are alive. Jesus says that “God is NOT the God of the
dead, but of the living” (Matthew 22:32). 
The letter to the Hebrews says that we are surrounded by a cloud of
witnesses, in Hebrews 12:1.  Witnesses
have to be alive in order to testify on our behalf to the supreme judge.  In Revelation 6:10, we learn that the saints
in heaven know what is going on down here on earth.  In Luke 16:24, we learn that dead people in
hell can even communicate with the very dead Abraham. In Mark 9:4, the
“dead” Moses and Elijah appear to Jesus and communicate with Him
regarding his exodus from earth. People who believe that being dead in the body
is also dead in the soul are called atheists, not Christians. It would be
sinful to conjure up a dead person, like Saul did with Samuel (1 Samuel 28:14),
in order to gain hidden knowledge (Deuteronomy 18:10-12).  But asking for intercession (1 Timothy 2:1)
from holy people is very biblical, due to the power they have (James 5:16).
Revelation 5:8 and 8:3 plainly state that the saints and angels present our
prayers to God in the form of incense. 
Saints pray alongside of us to Jesus as our intercessors. They do not
stand “between” us and God. 
They only pray with us and for us to Jesus who is the MEDIATOR and the
WAY. This can be seen, for example, in Revelation 5:8, where John depicts the
saints in heaven offering our prayers to God under the form of “golden
bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.” But if the
saints in heaven are offering our prayers to God, then they must be aware of
our prayers. They are aware of our petitions and present them to God by
interceding for us.
Some might try to argue
that in this passage the prayers being offered were not addressed to the saints
in heaven, but directly to God. Yet this argument would only strengthen the
fact that those in heaven can hear our prayers, for then the saints would be
aware of our prayers even when they are not directed to them! In any event, it
is clear from Revelation 5:8 that the saints in heaven do actively intercede
for us. We are explicitly told by John that the incense they offer to God are
the prayers of the saints. Prayers are not physical things and cannot be
physically offered to God. Thus the saints in heaven are offering our prayers
to God mentally. In other words, they are interceding.
Having clarified this, I
shall also explain that mediation role of Jesus Christ between God and man,
which is completely different from the prayers we address to the saints.

Fundamentalists are also
preoccupied with the fact that asking the saints for their intercession also
violates the sole mediator-ship of Christ, which Paul discusses: “For
there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ
Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5). And what is He the mediator of?  In Hebrews 9:15 and Hebrews 12:24, we learn
that Jesus is the mediator of THE NEW COVENANT. A covenant is a contract or
agreement between two or more parties. 
In the biblical setting, Covenant is how God has chosen to communicate
to us, to redeem us, and to guarantee us eternal life in Jesus. The
manifestation of that covenant occurs in our world in a sequence of additional
covenants that God made with individuals: Adam (Gen. 2:15-17), Noah (Gen.
9:12-16), Abraham (Gen. 17), the Israelites at Mount Sinai (Exodus 34:28),
believers in the New Covenant (Jer. 31:31-37), etc. How do we know that Christ
is the New Covenant? We know this from the Eternal Covenant mentioned in Heb.
13:20, “May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal
covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the
sheep”.  In this covenant, God the
Father and the Son made an agreement regarding the elect.  This covenant was made before the universe
was created, and it consisted of the Father promising to bring to the Son all
whom the Father had given Him (John 6:39; 17:9, 24).  Above all, let us take a look at the very
words of Jesus in the last supper: “…Take this, all of you, and drink from it;
this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It
will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven…” (see Mark
14:22-24; Matt 26:26-28; Luke 22:19-20; 1 Cor 11:23-25).
Having seen the mediation
role of Jesus Christ in relation to the “New Covenant”, we come to understand
better that asking the saints to Intercede for us to Jesus Christ does not
equate to being the mediator of the New Covenant; they are 2 entirely different
things. Let us consider further objections.

Some of our separated
brethren often say: “How, then, can Mary and the saints listen to and
answer thousands upon thousands of petitions made simultaneously in many
different lands and in many different languages? Many such petitions are
expressed, not orally, but only mentally, silently. How can Mary and the
saints, without being like God, be present everywhere and know the secrets of all
hearts?” does it mean that they are also omnipresent and omniscient like
A simple response to this
is: If being in heaven were like being in the next room, then, of course these
objections would be valid. This really shows that those who make these
objections possess a childish view of heaven; they have failed to understand
that those in heaven are not restricted by space and time. Space and time are
only qualities of this material universe. A mortal, unglorified person in the
next room would indeed suffer the restrictions imposed by the way SPACE AND
TIME work in our universe. But the saints are not in the next room, and they
are not subject to the time/space limitations of this life; for time and space
only makes meaning in this life and not in the life hereafter. This does NOT
imply that the saints in heaven therefore must be omniscient, as God is; it is
only THROUGH GOD’S GRACE that they can communicate with others in heaven or
with us. And the argument about petitions arriving in different languages is
even further off the mark. Does anyone really think that in heaven the saints
are restricted to languages? After all, it is God himself who gives the gift of
tongues and the interpretation of tongues. To be in heaven is to enjoy the
fullness of God’s graces and benefits. Therefore, it is by God’s grace and
benefits that the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints are able to understand the
numerous languages on earth and at the same time. Surely those saints in
Revelation understand the prayers they are shown to be offering to God.
Therefore, the Church in
all its wisdom and guided by the Holy Spirit, proclaimed today, 1st of November
as the Solemnity of All Saints. It is a Holy Day of Obligation; hence, we are
obliged to attend Mass; and unite our prayers with those of the saints, so that
on the last day, we may be counted among the faithful in the company of the
saints. Amen!



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Chinaka Justin Mbaeri

A staunch Roman Catholic and an Apologist of the Christian faith. More about him here.

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