Friday, January 11, 2019

Podcast 18: Honoring Relics and the Saints

Honoring Relics and the Saints

In our last lesson, we talked about Jesus being led up to the mountain and being tempted by the devil. Satan promised Jesus that if he did whatever he wanted him to do and if he worshiped him, he would give Jesus all the kingdoms of the world. Jesus did not give in to the temptations of the devil. Instead, he honored his Father and did everything that God the Father would want him to do throughout his life even to the point of dying for our sins on the cross. In that lesson, we talked a lot about worshipping God and only God. Today we will talk about honoring relics, statues, saints, and other religious things. We will talk about the difference between worshipping God and how we treat these other items.

Let's start off with some questions for you to think about during this lesson. Try to answer these questions as you make your way through the lesson.

Who are the Saints?
Where are the Saints right now?
In what ways do we honor the Saints?

We will get right into this lesson with a reading from the Bible. This is from St Luke's Gospel. It is from chapter 9: 28-36.

About eight days after he said this, he took Peter, John, and James and went up the mountain to pray. While he was praying his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem. Peter and his companions had been overcome by sleep, but becoming fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As they were about to part from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” But he did not know what he was saying. While he was still speaking, a cloud came and cast a shadow over them, and they became frightened when they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.” After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. They fell silent and did not at that time tell anyone what they had seen.

You may or may not know who Moses and Elijah were. Moses and Elijah were from the Old Testament time of history. They were very dear friends of God. They lived on Earth long before Jesus was here to save us from our sins. Moses and Elijah lead good lives. They were holy men and they were really truly God's friends. In the reading that we just had from the Bible, we see that our Lord Jesus Christ was there on the mountain with Peter, James, and John. They all saw Jesus appearing white and dazzling in all his glory with Moses and Elijah. Moses and Elijah, of course, were long dead, however, the apostles saw the Lord Jesus Christ with Moses and Elijah on top of the mountain.

The Saints are people who knew all the joys and the sorrows and sufferings as we do. The Saints never forgot God. They loved God and they always did their best to do God's will as we should be doing. This sometimes was not easy. It may have even been very difficult at times, however, they kept persevering and did their best to follow the will of God. They did this because they truly loved God. In the same way that Jesus honored Elijah and Moses, we must also honor all of God's friends. God's friends are Moses and Elijah and of course, all the saints.

God really does want us to pray to all of the Saints. When we pray to the saints we are simply talking to the saints. These saints are in heaven right near God. Many of our churches, schools, and other buildings are actually named after saints. Statues and paintings of them are everywhere throughout our world. Many cities are also named after the great saints. We have stained glass windows in many of our churches that show scenes from Jesus' life as well as scenes from the lives of the saints. The saints are those who are in heaven who died in a state of grace in true friendship with God.

Perhaps you will see a person wearing a metal of a saint around his neck or he’ll have pictures of saints in the home. This is perfectly fine. There are people who may think this is not fine and what we doing is committing idolatry. Idolatry means that we are worshiping these statues, metals, or icons (pictures). We definitely do not worship these things. We simply have these things in our lives to remind us of these wonderful saints and the great things that they did during their lifetime. When we wear a Catholic medal, such as St. Patrick who is my patron saint, we do so to remind us of the real person. We are encouraged by the Church and also Jesus to ask the saints to be there and to intercede for us. Intercede means that these saints will ask God for things that we need and want on our behalf.

You may be thinking that we just talked about the First Commandment of God which says "Thou shalt not put strange Gods before me". Does the First Commandment forbid us to honor the saints who are in heaven? No, the First Commandment does not forbid us to honor the saints in heaven because we are not giving them worship that only God should have. We are only praying to the saints which means we are talking with them and honoring them because they were great people who are in heaven with God right now.

This is similar to honoring your great-great-grandfather because he was a great person. You may honor by having pictures of him because he was such a great person and you want to be reminded of him.

We never, of course, will put anyone on the same pedestal with Jesus, God the Father, or the Holy Spirit. When we pray to the saints we actually ask them for help for anything that we need. If you need help from your coach and you know that your coach's brother is really close to him, you might ask the coach’s brother to say a good word for you to your coach. You might tell him that you really want to play in the next game. This is not a perfect example of praying to saints however it's similar to asking the saints to ask God to help us because they are closer to God than we are.

When we have a crucifix or other holy image while we are praying we are not praying to that image or that item. When we are praying the Holy Rosary and we're holding the rosary beads we're not in any way praying to those beads. That would be idolatry which would be a sin. We are just using those items such as the rosary beads or metal to simply help us. We have pictures of holy things in our churches and at our houses to remind us of those people just as we have pictures of our relatives and those who we love who are here on Earth or who have passed on. We want to be reminded forever of these people and the great things that they did.

Let's have another reading from the Bible from the Book of Revelation chapter 7; 9-12. This is about Saint John's vision of the saints in heaven.

After this I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne,
and from the Lamb.” All the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They prostrated themselves before the throne, worshiped God, and exclaimed: “Amen. Blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving, honor, power, and might be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”

Do you have any questions for me?

Student: Can the saints really help us?
Yes, the saints are able to help us. If we ask them to ask God for help they definitely will be happy to do that for us. They can't actually do miracles for us as God can however they can definitely ask God to help us if we ask them to.

Student: Do we actually pray to the crucifix and statues?
No, some people may think that we are praying to the crucifix and the statues, however, we are not actually praying to them. We are just using those items to help us have a deeper and more enriching prayer life. The crucifix reminds us of Jesus dying on the cross for us and this may help us to be in a holier state of mind when we pray. Statues that we may have in front of us when we pray may also remind us of the holy things that these saints did while they were here on Earth.

Student: Do we honor the Saints the same as we honor God?
This is absolutely not true. No one ever has the same place of God. We should never honor any saint as much as we honor God. The saints are God's special friends. They are with God in heaven because they have loved God and they were true to God while they were here on Earth. They died in the State of Grace and are in heaven with God. Even though they are so very special we still do not worship them or honor them at the same level as God.

Student: How can the saints help us?
The saints can help us by their prayers to God.

Student: Where are the Saints right now?
The Saints are in heaven right now next to Jesus and God the Father.

I hope this lesson has helped you to be able to better tell the difference between honoring the friends of God, the saints, and actually worshiping God. We never ever put the saints on the same level as we put God. This would be a sin of idolatry. We only worship God and God Alone, however, we should honor the great saints who were the great friends of God. As you continue to learn about your faith, I am confident that you will become closer and become better friends to our Lord Jesus Christ. I am definitely getting closer to our Lord as I make these lessons for you.

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