“Ask a Priest: How Can Mary Be a Mediatrix When Christ Is the “One Mediator”?”

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Q: As a convert I am struggling with a question in regards to Mary. 1 Timothy 2:5 states, “For there is one God: and one mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” But the Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 969, refers to Mary as the Mediatrix. How can Mary be a mediator between God and man when the Bible states that Christ is the only mediator? – J.G.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: I think the basic issue here is the “mediation” implies various levels of mediation.

True, Christ is the one true mediator between God and man. This is part of what the Incarnation is about; the Second Person takes on human nature and suffers and dies for our redemption. Without him heaven would remain closed to the rest of us.

Yet, this doesn’t detract from one of the key features of Judeo-Christianity: that of mediation.

Think of Moses mediating for the Israelites in the Old Testament. Think of the prophets who acted as mediators, bringing God’s word to the people. Think of Scripture itself — it is written by human authors (mediators) and edited by human redactors (more mediation).

God could speak to our hearts directly (which he often does), but he also chose to use prophets (mediators) and to give us his inspired word (the Bible) through the use of mediators.

Moreover, if you back up a few verses in 1 Timothy, you will see these lines: “I ask that supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone, for kings and for all in authority, that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity. This is good and pleasing to God our savior” (vv. 1-3).

When St. Paul exhorts his audience to pray for kings, etc., he is basically asking them to mediate on behalf of these folks. And rather than offending the Almighty, this is “pleasing to God.”

You probably do the same thing — praying for your loved ones. That, too, is a kind of mediation. That, too, is pleasing to God. It is part of what unifies us, which is part of God’s plan for us, that we be united for the sake of Christ.

Now, it isn’t hard to see that some people might have more influence as mediators than others. Catholics believe Mary has a special place in the Church. Being the Mother of Jesus she has a special power of intercession with him.

When we call her mediatrix we are implicitly acknowledging that her power is really linked to Jesus’ power.

The Second Vatican Council in its document Lumen Gentium, No. 60, said, “Mary’s function as mother of men in no way obscures or diminishes this unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows its power. But the Blessed Virgin’s salutary influence on men originates not in any inner necessity but in the disposition of God. It flows forth from the superabundance of the merits of Christ, rests on his mediation, depends entirely on it and draws all its power from it. It does not hinder in any way the immediate union of the faithful with Christ but on the contrary fosters it.”

Mary’s influence is fitting, given her loyalty to her Son, even up to the point of standing by the cross when many of his disciples had led. It is significant, too, that in one of his last words Jesus was concerned that his Mother be taken care of. “Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his home” (John 19:27).

To go deeper into some of these Marian themes, and to understand how so many saints and other Christians through the centuries have benefited from a healthy Marian devotion in their spiritual lives, you might find useful our free, video retreat guides that touch on that devotion, such as “River of Wisdom,” “God Is Faithful,” “Welcoming the Word,” and “A Mother’s Tears.”

I hope some of this helps.

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