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Part 2: Salvation Through Christ Alone?
By Dr. Robert Stackpole, STD (May 21, 2015)
The following is the second part of our Mary 101 series.
Many of our Evangelical brothers and sisters claim that we should trust in Jesus Christ, and in Him "alone" for our salvation — not in Mary and the saints. But from a Catholic perspective, this runs into one big problem: Tthe Bible clearly tells us that Jesus is never alone! Yes, our trust is ultimately in Him, and He is "pre-eminent in all things" (Col 1:18), but He is never solitary: He is King of a Kingdom, the unifying center and Ssource of the whole communion of saints, the Head of a Body in which we are all members. To be fully united with Him is to be "in Christ," which includes being "in" His Body, the Church (I Cor 12:12-27).
The Book of Hebrews tells us that when you come to Jesus, "You have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven, and to a judge who is God of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant ... " (Heb 12:22-24). In other words, when we come to Jesus, we become part of a whole community of faith that embraces both heaven and earth, and his grace flows to us through this community of faith, precisely because it is his Body.
In fact, the Bible says that whenever we repent of our sins and turn to Christ we are re-established as members of the very "household of God" (I Tim 3:15); in other words, we are accepted back into the family of the Son of God Himself, just as the prodigal son was welcomed home in Jesus' parable (Lk 15:11-32). And just as in any loving home on earth, the family of Christ is full of mutual help and support. Catholic theologian Dr. Scott Hahn explains this beautiful truth — and what it implies about our relationship with Mary — in his book Hail, Holy Queen:
God's covenant family is perfect, lacking nothing. The Church looks to God as Father, Jesus as Brother, and to heaven as home. What is missing then?
In truth, nothing. Every family needs a mother; only Christ could choose His own, and He chose providentially for His entire covenant family. Now everything He has He shares with us. His divine life is ours [e.g., II Pet 1:4]; His home is our home [Jn 14:1-4]; His father is our Father [Mt 6:9]; His brothers are our brothers [Mk 3:35], and His mother is our mother, too [Jn 19: 25-27].
For a family is incomplete without a loving mother. The breakaway Christian churches that diminish Mary's role inevitably end up feeling like a bachelor's apartment: masculine to a fault; orderly but not homey; functional and productive — but with little sense of beauty and poetry.
Yet all the Scriptures ... all creation, and our deepest human needs tell us that no family should be that way — and certainly not the covenant family of God. The apostles knew this, and that's why they were gathered with Mary in Jerusalem at Pentecost. The early generations of Christians knew this, and that's why they painted her image in their catacombs and dedicated their churches to her (2001 edition, pp. 27-28).
The full truth about Mary as our Spiritual Mother in the family of God is something that gradually unfolded in the life of the Church over many centuries. Saints, popes, and church councils, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, pondered ever more deeply the words of Scripture about Mary's role in God's plan. Step by step, the early Christians came to appreciate the revealed truth about our Lady. In this series on Marian apologetics, therefore, we will walk through these truths, one at a time, in roughly the same order that the Church herself came to appreciate and fully articulate them down through history. First, we will ponder themes that were especially close to the hearts of the earliest Christians and the ancient Fathers of the Church: namely, Mary as the New Eve and the Ever-Virgin Mother of God. Then we will consider doctrines about Mary that were articulated for the first time in the Middle Ages (although, as we shall see the first seeds of these doctrines were planted in the soil of the Church's life by the Holy Spirit from the beginning): most especially, the doctrines that Mary was filled with divine grace from the very first moment of her existence, and assumed body and soul into heaven at her life's end. Finally we will show that she reigns now with her Son as Queen of Heaven and our Spiritual Mother of Mercy, and that her Immaculate Heart is truly the heart of the Church.
Some of these revealed truths about Mary have been solemnly and infallibly defined by the Church's magisterium: Mary as Mother of God and Ever-Virgin, her Immaculate Conception and her Assumption. Others are so solidly attested in Scripture (at least implicitly) and Sacred Tradition, especially in the writings of many great saints and popes, that we can hold them as true beyond any reasonable doubt: for example, Mary as the New Eve, Queen of Heaven, and Mother of Mercy. Although this online series is written primarily for Catholics, we hope that it will stimulate friendly discussion with our Evangelical brothers and sisters as well, and lead to greater mutual understanding of the role that Mary plays in God's plan.
In the articles to follow, we will walk through each of these wonderful, divinely revealed truths about the Blessed Virgin, and we invite the reader to a deeper devotion to Mary as the one whose sole task, both on earth and in heaven, is to bring us ever closer to the Merciful Heart of Jesus, her Son.
O Blessed Virgin Mary, I humbly beseech thee... through thy pure heart, to take full possession of my heart. Give it completely to thy divine Son, and beg Him to banish from it all sin and to establish in it forever the perfect reign of His divine love (St. John Eudes).
Questions for Discussion from Parts I and II:
1. What is the difference between the "worship" of Mary and the "veneration" of Mary?
2. What difference does it make to the Church as the family of God to have a Spiritual Mother in this family?
3. Does having a personal relationship with Mary necessarily compete with, or distract us from, our personal relationship with Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior? Can some people go too far and put Mary at the center of their lives instead of Jesus?
Suggestions for Further Reading
• Read Catechism of the Catholic Church, entry 971
• Read the section from Fr. Donald Calloway's book Under the Mantle (Marian Press, 2013) entitled "Who Do You Say that I Am?" (pp.37-47), which gives Fr. Don's personal witness about the importance of Mary to his own conversion, and to the fullness of life in Christ.