How to Answer Protestants Forum: Mary
Mary QUESTION from William Alexander on September 28, 2002 Hi ! I hope you can help me in answerng my Protestant friend regarding Mary and the Saints.
1) Although my friend accepts my explanation that we do not worship Mary and the Saints, she pointed out that we do spend a lot of our time in devotions to Mary, in asking for her intercession, instead of spending more time with Jesus. She is uncomfortable with this because its taking the 'limelight' of Jesus, where Jesus should be the focus, the starring character. Instead, we spend a huge chunk of our time and efforts with Mary and the Saints. Why can't we spend 100% of our time to Jesus, or maybe 99% of our time with Jesus and maybe 1% asking for intercession ?
2) Why Mary ? Why is her prayer for us so powerful ? Surely it cannot be because that she is the Mother, and therefore Jesus will listen to her !!??
3) How do I convince my friend that Mary is sinless.? The fact that its not clearly stated in the Bible makes it very difficult for me to convince my friend.
ANSWER by Mr. Troy Martz on October 19, 2002 Dear William:
These are all common questions to anyone outside the Catholic Faith looking in. I myself struggled with these questions when I was coming into the Church.
Here are some ways to help your friend understand. Remember that for someone growing up without the benefits of a Catholic culture many of the beliefs we hold may seem foreign. Though we can explain and provide Scripture and reason to defend our beliefs, it is often difficult for others to grasp them without the whole Catholic context.
1. Your friend asks why we Catholics pay so much attention to Mary and the Saints. The simplest answer is that they are our spiritual family and best role models. Any grace that they have been given is only through Christ and their service of Him. Our attention to them is no more offensive to Jesus than praising a painting would offend the painter. Since all that is praiseworthy in the Saints (or any of us) is a reflection of Christ’s work in their lives, paying attention to them is praising the work of Christ. If you were in a room full of an artist’s masterpieces, would you ignore his work and only look at him? Ignoring the work of the Artist is more likely to offend Him than praising His work. Rather than taking the limelight from Christ, we are acknowledging those He shines His Light on the most.
2. Why Mary? Of all the created creatures, only one was preserved pure enough to physically carry the Word Made Flesh and give her flesh for God Become Man. Going back to the previous paragraph, it is not any individual merit of her own that we venerate, it is the perfect work of Christ in the crowning Masterpiece of Creation.
As for the prayers of Mary and the Saints, read James 5:16-19 about the powerfulness of the prayers of a holy man. Those who have fought the good fight and won the race and attained Heaven would certainly be considered holy. If you are not sure that they care enough to pray for us, remember that Romans 8:35-39 states that not even death separates us from the love of Christ and it is that love that calls us to pray for one another. If the rich man in Jesus’ parable can look up from hell and plead for the cause of his brothers because he knows that they have rejected God, certainly those in Heaven can look down and see our problems and pray for us to God.
3. The question of Mary’s sinless state is often a stumbling block for those without the greater context of the fullness of the faith. Without going into the full-blown theological discussion, it is useful to examine one of the titles the Church gives to Mary: the Ark of the New Covenant.
If you remember, the Ark of the Old Covenant was made to carry the signs of the Covenant: The Tablets of the Commandments (the Word of God), the Staff of Aaron (the priesthood), and the Manna (the Bread from Heaven). Jesus is the fulfillment of what these sign point to – He is the Word Made Flesh, the Eternal High Priest, and the Bread of Life. It is easy to see the correlation between the Covenants this way. But remember that the Ark of the Covenant was the holiest artifact of the Jews, to touch it without being ritually pure was to die. If you reread Exodus 37, you will see that the Ark was constructed of only the most pure materials. If the Ark that carried the signs had to be pure, how much more pure must be the Ark that carried the Reality pointed to by those signs.
These are not intended to be full-scale theological arguments but rather starting points for discussion and discovery. Encourage your friend to join you on the journey and use the Scriptures and the Catechism (which will help you find the Scriptures related to the topics and interpret them properly) as your guide. Seek and you will find the peace of belonging to the Family of God which is the Peace of Christ.
Pax Christi, Troy
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