10 February 2006

Interceding Saints

NOTE: I've built this post off the first part of a sermon I preached on the Second Sunday after the Epiphany (the Gospel of Jesus changing the water into wine).

The holy Apostle Saint James reminds us to pray to the Lord for one another because the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much (Jas 5.16 KJV). If that is true—if the prayer of a righteous man is so beneficial, so helpful, so advantageous to us—then how much more so the fervent prayer of the most righteous person of all; the one hand picked by the Father to give flesh and give birth to His only-begotten Son? If the fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much, how much more so the fervent prayer of the all holy Mother of God?

In the account of Jesus' miracle at Cana, we see that the Blessed Virgin's prayer avails much. We see the benefit of her intercession on behalf of who attend the wedding at Cana. For surely, she prays for them. It’s not a long prayer. It’s not an eloquent prayer. But it is a prayer nevertheless when St. Mary says, They have no wine. And her prayer is no different then when we pray, plead, sigh, or cry out to the Lord and say, “Lord, we’re in a tight spot. We don’t know where to turn or what to do next. We’re trying hard to do the right thing—to live as you want us to. But we’re weak and at our wits end. Have mercy, Lord, and help us.”

It is a great comfort to know that whenever we pray to the Lord, whenever we cry out, the saints join us in prayer. They pray with us. They intercede for us. And if that episode at Cana is any indication, the Blessed Mother of God leads their prayers, and urges the saints and angels on—all for our sake. And, in fact, I will be so bold as to say that the intercession of the saints, led by the holy Mother, is one of the ways in which the Holy Spirit makes intercession for us. As St Paul says, the Spirit helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And since the saints—and all the faithful—pray in the Spirit, it is through their prayers that the Spirit intercedes for us.

It is a great comfort to be reminded, in liturgy and hymn, that the saints intercede for us. For it reminds us that we never pray alone. But more than that, when it seems as if the Lord has not heard our prayer; when it feels as if He has brushed our concerns aside as too petty and too insignificant; when it looks as if He won’t come through for us, as if we’re too much bother for Him—then the prayers and intercessions of the saints lead us to greater faith in the Lord since we have the Apostle’s forthright promise that the prayers and intercessions of these holy righteous saintly men and women of God avail much.

Yet the focus of our comfort better not end simply with the acknowledgement that the saints pray for us. For the emphasis is not on "the prayer of the righteous," but on the "avails much." Therefore, the prayers of Blessed Mary and the prayers of all the saints point us forward to the hope of our salvation, and to the means by which the Lord answers all our prayers. For what happens at Cana? After Jesus hears the prayer of His mother, He then changes the water into wine.

In the same way, hearing the prayers of the righteous men and women on our behalf, Our Lord acts for our good. Not, mind you, because they told Him to and He got off the stick. But He acts in concert with their prayers. They say, "Lord have mercy"--fully confident that He will--and He is merciful--knowing that they've asked.


Unknown said...

Beautifully written.

Fr John W Fenton said...

Thanks for the kind words, Joe.