Lesson Plan for Oct. 16 or Oct. 18, 2006

Prayer Service: Our Lady of Fatima Crowning (no books needed)


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Praying to Mary as a Catholic

WHAT THE BIBLE TEACHES ABOUT PRAYING TO MARY

The Bible says that only God can forgive sins and answer our prayers. It also says the Jesus Christ is the only mediator between us humans and God himself. Therefore, it might seem like we should only pray to God and not to anyone else, including Mary, who is God's earthly mother.

It is certainly appropriate to pray to God, and according to Holy Scripture, it is never required to pray to anyone but God. You can go through your entire life, praying only to God directly, and you will be a perfectly good Christian.

However, there are passages in Holy Scripture that suggest it might help to pray to others, especially to Mary, who can then take our prayer requests to her Son, and then, he can grant our prayers. For example, consider the story of the wedding at Cana, in the second chapter of John's gospel. Here, people throwing a wedding feast run out of wine. They tell their problem to Mary, who then turns to Jesus and asks him to help. As you might expect, he turns water into wine at the request of his mother, who was simply relaying the request from the hosts of the party. After she instructed the hosts to do whatever Jesus told them to do, this is what happened:

Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings, each holding twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus told them, "Fill the jars with water." So they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, "Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter." So they took it. And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine, without knowing where it came from (although the servers who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom and said to him, "Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now." (Jn 2:6-11 NAB)

You see, the key to this story is that Mary is the one who asks for Jesus' help. She led the wedding hosts to her Son, who then helped them out by making some wine for their guests. It might not make any sense that Jesus needed Mary to tell him what was up with the wine situation (after all, I'm sure, as God, he pretty much knew the hosts were out of wine: no one had to tell him this). BUT, that is how it actually happened. We may never understand why Jesus didn't just make the wine without Mary telling him they needed any. How it happened, however, is that Mary did in fact tell him, and he granted the request. The passage suggests that telling Mary about our needs and troubles will cause her to bring those prayers to her Son, our Lord, and he will be able to do something about it.

Other passages suggest that others, including but not limited to Mary, may take prayers to the Lord on our behalf. For example, the passage in Luke 8:49-55 reads as follows:

While he was still speaking, someone from the synagogue official's house arrived and said, "Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the teacher any longer." On hearing this, Jesus answered him, "Do not be afraid; just have faith and she will be saved." When he arrived at the house he allowed no one to enter with him except Peter and John and James, and the child's father and mother. All were weeping and mourning for her, when he said, "Do not weep any longer, for she is not dead, but sleeping." And they ridiculed him, because they knew that she was dead. But he took her by the hand and called to her, "Child, arise!" Her breath returned and she immediately arose. He then directed that she should be given something to eat. (NAB)

Here, we see clearly that the dead girl did not call out to Jesus, but rather her father, who loved her. It was the parent who took a prayer on behalf the dead daughter's needs to Jesus, and Jesus healed her. The parent's faith saved the daughter. This seems to indicate that others can take our prayers to the Lord on our behalf, and they can be effective as well, just as if we had prayed directly to the Lord ourselves.

Do you still have doubts that the prayers of others on our behalf are effective with the Lord? Consider how Jesus once healed a Greek woman's daughter, when he didn't even touch her in person. The story is told in many places, but it is especially powerful in Mark 5:25 ff:

Soon a woman whose daughter had an unclean spirit heard about him. She came and fell at his feet. The woman was a Greek, a Syrophoenician by birth, and she begged him to drive the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, "Let the children be fed first. For it is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs." She replied and said to him, "Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children's scraps." Then he said to her, "For saying this, you may go. The demon has gone out of your daughter." When the woman went home, she found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.

So, pray for your sick relatives. Take your prayers directly to the Lord. But don't forget that you may ask any soul who is in heaven with Jesus (certainly, Mary is one of them) to take your prayers to the Lord as well. This is called "intercessory prayer," and the Bible has a lot to say about it. The idea of intercessory prayer also serves as a reminder of God's Fourth Commandment: honor your father and mother. It's not just limited to our biological father and mother. Rather, God commands us to honor all those who take our prayers to God, including our father and mother, but also including Mary, the saints, particularly saints of a given cause that you might pray for at some point, our teachers, and others who pray for us.

WHAT THE CHURCH TEACHES (THIS WEEK'S READINGS)

The gospel reading for this week (Oct. 15) is about a rich man who wants to know how he can get into heaven. He tells Jesus he has followed all the commandments, and Jesus basically says, "Well, then, there's just one more thing: sell everything you own, give the money to the poor, take up your cross and follow me." Since the man loves his worldly possessions too much, he is unable to obey Jesus' command. Too bad for him!

Unless you interpret this passage literally, it probably suggests that what we do should serve the Lord and not some other "god" like money, material possessions, rewards, pride, and so on. Instead, we should try to do what he told us to do, the key word being "try." He does not command us to succeed; rather, we just have to give an honest effort to follow him rather than the demons the devil has put before us. As another example, consider this week's second reading, from the Book of Hebrews. It tells us that we should not be afraid of giving God an honest accounting for our lives, for everything we've done in it. We should, in other words, have confidence that we have served him and followed him faithfully.

What is an honest effort? Well, for those of us who know what the Bible says, it's using every trick in the Book, meaning THE Book (the Bible) to get on God's good side. We are told in scripture that not only can we pray to God for ourselves, but we can pray to God (and know our prayers will be answered) on behalf of others. We also know, therefore, that others can take prayers to the Lord on behalf of us. These people are our elders, which the Fourth Commandment says we are supposed to honor. Is it clear yet?

We have to follow Christ, as our gospel message tells us today. We have to make an honest effort, because even though our elders may not know what is in our heart, God knows. The Book of Hebrews today tells us we will give an honest report of our lives to God one day, at our day of judgment, and in order to be totally honest and upfront, we need to use every technique we know, including praying to others and for others.

Even though Mary is not on earth anymore, her soul resides in perfect and eternal union with God, our Father in heaven. Praying to her is just like praying to any other saint that we know rests in peace with God. They can help our prayers become more effective with Jesus, and then, our effort will be better. All God asks is that you try. Try your best, including doing everything you know to pray for his creation.

QUESTIONS TO PONDER AND REFLECT ON

What or whom do you pray for? Do you pray for America? Who is the patron saint of this country? To whom did Catholic bishops who first came to the New World dedicate this land?

What is the best time of day for you to pray the Rosary?

BIBLE PASSAGE TO HELP YOU PONDER

I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David will be a prince among them. I, the Lord, have spoken. I'll make a covenant of peace with them. I'll rid the country of the ravenous beasts, so everyone can live in security and sleep comfortably in this land. I'll send rain when it is the season for rain, and these rains will be a blessing to the nation's people. All the trees will bear fruit. The land will bring forth a good crop. The people will live safe and secure on their own soil. Then, they will know that I'm the Lord, when they are set free from all those who enslave them. They won't be threatened anymore by countries or wiped away by natural disasters. Instead, they'll be safe and secure, with no one to frighten them. (Ezek 34:25-28, new translation)