The intermediary Neighbor

    A few days ago, as I was watching and listening to a TV show, a prominent leading member of an Evangelical sect or branch was, in all good faith, trying to explain in simple terms the distinction between Evangelical churches, whose faithful address Jesus directly, with no intermediaries, and the Catholic church, which acts as an intermediary between God and human beings, or between Jesus Christ and human beings.

    He illustrated his point with an example: “It’s as if I had stolen a wallet from someone, a next-door neighbor for instance, and then I approached an intermediary, any other neighbor living in the same next-door house to hand in the wallet, asking him or her to give it back in my name to the neighbor from whom I had stolen it. It’s not logic,” he said; “the logic approach would be for me to go directly to the harmed neighbor and hand in the wallet myself, saying I’m sorry for the act committed against his/her will. That is why we Evangelicals turn to Jesus Christ directly in order to hand in the wallet to Him, that is, the trust we have breached, and say we are sorry for the wrong we’ve done.”

    Nice and interesting example, I thought at first, to illustrate the fundamental attitude of Evangelical churches in any of their branches, seeking God’s peace and forgiveness with no intermediaries, through direct and personal reading of the Bible, drawing from such reading, done with true adherence not deprived of humility, the consequences which are necessary for their lives as Christians.

    Indeed, the contrast to the Catholic church lies in the fact that the latter instead, with its precepts and provisions, constantly intervenes in the relationship of its faithful with God, through the administration of the Sacraments, the Holy Mass, the different liturgical celebrations, the Catechism, Papal encyclicals and the numerous documents of the ecclesiastical hierarchy, which, despite not preventing the direct relationship between the faithful and Jesus Christ through personal prayer, “restrict the freedom of the faithful themselves” according to Evangelicals.

    Shortly thereafter, reflecting on these various ways to resort to God’s presence and inspiration in our souls, either directly or through the Church, I arrived at the conclusion that the important thing in each man’s life is to endeavor to fulfill God’s will as faithfully as possible, and it turns out that God, by the teachings of His Son Jesus Christ, wished to found the Church so that it might continue developing His task of evangelizing humanity over the ages to come, that is, as long as there are human beings on earth. “And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew, 16:18-19). Undoubtedly, with these statements Jesus Christ made His will clear and lucidly expressed as to the organization and intervention of the Church founded by Him, for the salvation of humankind.

    The Church is not a mere neighbor to whom we turn to ask for intervention on our behalf in order to spare us the trouble of having to face the harmed neighbor. It is much more than that—it is the normal, ordinary path that Jesus has meant to establish to help us in all our doubts and needs through eternal bliss. The others are unsecured paths, and we can never be sure where exactly they will lead us to. Neither does it restrict our freedom by its intervention, since it simply offers it to us in the name of its founder, to make things—our decisions—safer for us, without ever imposing such intervention, which we are supposed to accept willingly and in full freedom, something which is not easy as we intentionally think about our own comfort or convenience in taking and reviewing the Bible directly, in order to find a solution straightaway to those things which worry us most. But this is not, of course, the path desired and established by God.

Roberto Grao

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