Jesus, Mediator & Redeemer

The Christian faith is not a book religion. It is not a philosophy of life or a mere legal code. While there is complexity with the many elements of governance, ritual and faith within Catholicism, it remains essentially a religion built upon relationships. Everything comes down to a personal and communal association or affinity or friendship with Jesus Christ.  This also necessitates a bond of peace between believers as spiritual brothers and sisters in Christ.  We take seriously that no one can approach the heavenly Father except through him.  His is the saving name— there is no other.  Given the intimate union between our Lord and his mystical body which is the Church, both are appraised as essential to salvation. Jesus Christ is the source for all saving graces.  These graces are merited by his saving acts. No one is saved apart from Christ and his paschal mystery. While our fidelity is demanded, our works only have value when we allow the Lord to live and act in us. “You belong to God, children, and you have conquered them, for the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

When speaking of Jesus, and admittedly the Virgin Mary is often added into the mix, there is an appeal to a cosmic analogy.  Jesus is imaged as the sun and the Blessed Mother is likened to the moon.  All light and life-giving warmth comes from the sun and yet this very same light illuminates the moon during the night. Everything that Mary has comes from her Son. As the chief model for the saints, she reflects Christ. Turning to another analogy— that of the body— it might be said that graces flow from Christ the head through Mary (the neck of the mystical body) to all of us as members of that body. 

Our Lord establishes Simon Peter as the ROCK upon which he would build his Church. However, our Lord could only do this because he, himself, is the “foundation” stone. Jesus extends something of himself upon the apostle.  While Peter is the visible head, Jesus is the invisible and supreme head of the Church. Paul gives the instruction, “For no one can lay a foundation other than the one that is there, namely, Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:11).

Our relationship with Christ is neither an ordinary friendship nor a change in standing imputed juridically. Many (but not all) Protestant churches regard the faith relationship with Jesus as a form of bargaining or legal wrangling— we give God something and in return we get what we want. The sinner is presumably saved but not really changed. One makes a faith profession and Jesus grants pardon. However, the testimony of Scriptures and the Catholic Church insists that this saving relationship is much more. Faith in Jesus must be sustained and is realized through obedience and charity.  While salvation is a gift, the believer must truly be disposed to receive it. Despite differences in perspective, we would find solidarity with our Protestant friends in a shared love for Jesus. We would also agree that we should keep the commandments. But mechanically following the rules will not automatically save us either. What Catholicism would add is a heightened appreciation of the incarnation. God becomes flesh in Jesus Christ. But the Lord must also be present in his proclaimed Word, in the community of the Church, in the sacraments and in each of us.  While we are distinct from Jesus as creatures and he is a divine Person, nevertheless, we must enter into a profound union with him.  We have been redeemed by the passion and the Cross. However, we can only truly be saved if the Father looks upon us and sees his Son in us. If this is the case them almighty God will give us a share in Christ’s reward. The Catholic appreciation of relationship with Christ begins by acknowledging him wherever he is present.  Faith and baptism makes us kin to Christ and adopted sons and daughters of the Father. We become members of the royal household and are subjects of the kingdom.  We cannot remain what we were. The mercy of Jesus would not only pardon us of sin but offer a true cleansing. Sainthood is not a label we wear or a mask behind which we hide our true selves. Sinners need to become spiritually perfect or holy.  This fits into our beliefs about the afterlife and the need for purgatory. All this is to say that we take seriously the notion of being born again, about becoming a new creation in Christ. Union with Jesus is about more than a change in legal standing. It demands a profound and ongoing transformation into Christ. Right relationship with God and salvific grace come along with being refashioned into the likeness of Christ. This signifies a profound or intimate union between the believer and the Lord.

Jesus redeems us or buys us back from the devil at the cost of his own blood. We were slaves to sin and the devil’s property. Our Lord not only offers us liberation but raises us above any treatment as commodities. He has made our human nature his own and thus has given our humanity a far greater dignity.  What the devil tears down, the Lord builds up. While Mary and the saints have a role to play in salvation history, Jesus is our one savior and true mediator. Made the pattern of our worship at Mass, Jesus is our high priest who mediates between us and the Father. This mediation makes possible the forgiveness of sins.

The entire Christian faith hinges upon the Person of Jesus Christ:

“For there is one God. There is also one mediator between God and the human race, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself as ransom for all” (1 Timothy 2:5-6).

“There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved” (Acts 4:12).

At the heart of Christ’s saving mission and work is what we call the paschal mystery: the passion, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ. Yes, he preaches and teaches, but it all comes down to the climax of the Gospel. Here is the reason why he enters the world. Jesus is faithful to his mission unto the Cross. Having won the victory over sin and death, he rises from the dead and sends the Holy Spirit to preserve us in the truth, to give efficacy to the sacraments and to plant the gift of faith in human minds and hearts. The Holy Spirit sent by Christ makes possible the movement of faith in human souls.   

About Father Joe

Father Joe Jenkins I am the pastor of Holy Family Church and a Catholic priest in the Archdiocese of Washington, DC.
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