I have read many church stories that seem unbelievable. Stories where many men and women do extraordinary miracles that go far beyond what we read in the bible. Some saints moved a mountain…LITERALLY. Other fathers made a camel to go through within the eye of a needle. Some raised a person from the dead while others had the power to curse someone to death (passing from this world) (Acts 5). Moreover, Christ Himself said that we can do even greater things than what we read in the bible if we believe in Him. (John 14:12) When our recent forefathers and mothers hear these stories from Gedlat (written stories of different miracles) they believe it. Most of them believed it not because it makes sense, but because they have faith that God works out of empirical sense. For example, let’s see the story of the cannibal person mentioned in the miracles of the Virgin Mary (belaE SebE). The story mentions how a person used to be a devout Christian and later denied God because of the trials in his life. The story then continues how he became a murderer and even to the point of being a cannibal. Finally, the story concluded with a story of when an individual begged him for a cup of water in the name of the Holy Virgin Mary and how the cannibal person found a giving heart in him and offered water to the beggar. The story continues then soon after that, he passed from this world and God had mercy on his soul. Now, in so many levels of the secular world law, this story is unfair and unacceptable. How can a murderer be saved in just offering a cup of water? But let’s set aside our worldly law wired mind and see if this story makes sense from a biblical point.
There is a parable that Christ spoke of in Matthew 20 about a landowner who has a vineyard and hired workers in three different times- morning, mid-day, and afternoon. Then he paid all three based on what they agreed upon in the beginning, which turned out to be an equal amount between all the workers. But those who got hired in the morning complained that they received the same amount with the one that came in the afternoon. Then the landowner answered “I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a dinar? Take your money and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?”
In the stories like the cannibal person, instead of being in awe of God’s generosity towards the cannibal person, we try to theologize God’s mercy and complain about the unfairness of these types of moving stories. Let’s first see the bigger picture of God looking for ANY excuse to forgive us of our sins. How merciful is our God!? Besides, is this story any different than the thief on the right hand side of the cross? He never lived a decent righteous life but ended up being the first to enter the kingdom of God. Or does it not say in Matthew 10: 42 “ if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward”? And isn’t it given that Holy Virgin Mary is blessed among all including the disciples? (Luke 1:28) So, if the cannibal person found in his heart to be generous even in the last minute of his earthly life, God is not a man to take back His word. (Numbers 23:19) A man overlooks many of your virtuous achievements and magnifies on your tiny faults. God however, ignores our countless transgression and finds something... anything to welcome us in his bosom. This is the kind of Father we have.
What we can learn
To reiterate, the immeasurable mercy of God is the main lesson here. What is needed from us is to strive to be generous and do goodness from our heart. Then the rest will be accomplished out of God’s mercy. Compassion is God’s unlimited treasure so as the wealthy landowner, we believe that He can do whatever he wants with His treasure. We shouldn’t be envious of how he distributes His blessing to His sons and daughters. A right mind would be “Lord Jesus Christ have mercy upon me the sinner as you give mercy to the thief on the right hand of the cross or even as you give mercy to the cannibal person.” And as it is mentioned in Matthew 10, it’s wise to give whatever we have from our heart in the name of His disciples or the saints to the needy. God doesn’t care the amount we give; instead, he cares about how earnest we are when we give. It’s better to lend a hand as little as a gift of small cup of water from our heart, instead of giving a large lump sum of money with envious, egotistic, and greedy heart. In Mark 12:42, it was the offering of the lady with the two mites that was accepted instead of the rich donors who gave a lot more.
In addition, we learn the power of the righteous' fervent prayer. (James 5:16 )Specifically, we learn the power of intercession prayer and how intercession of the Saints (The intercession of the Virgin Mary’s in the story of the cannibal man) is one of the ways that we reach to the eternal Way- Jesus Christ. This is one of the core beliefs of Orthodox Tewahedo faith.
What we don’t learn
Those who want to find excuse to do what the flesh yearns can always find a way to justify their wrong doing. For example, from the story of the cannibal person, individuals can misinterpret this story and say “I can do anything in my life and I will eventually give a cup of water in the name of a Saint and be saved.” This is a detrimental mentality that will give us excuses to continue living a sinful life. Our perception should not be to cut corners and hope to do bare minimum to inherit the kingdom of heaven. The compassion and kindness of God should not be exploited. It should lead us to salvation. “Do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness, forbearance, and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?” (Rom 2:4) A true Christian utilizes the mercifulness of God and strives to be like Him at all times.
Additionally, we cannot replace the power of intercession with the power of salvation. Rather, we should be able to utilize the power of intercession to pursue the life of salvation. The intercession of Saints including our Mother the Holy Virgin Mary will enable us to get closer to Her Son. That is the whole purpose of intercession. A Christian shouldn’t say since I have the leverage of intercession, I shouldn’t confess or that I don’t have to take Holy Communion because I will be saved by the prayer of saints. In the wedding of Cana, Our Mother Virgin Mary’s intercession is mentioned in two different ways. How She beseeches on our behalf – from us to Her Son, which is described in the narrative where she pleads saying “They don’t have wine.” Secondly, the blessing she brings from Her Son to us, which is the transformation of our life and the narrative states, “Do whatever He tells you.” And what our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ tells us is to repent, partake in His flesh and blood, forgive one another, and overall to live a life of Christ-like.
Therefore, the power of intercession grants us a blessing (The reward mentioned in Mat. 10:42)to achieve a sacramental life and to give us a second chance or a third chance whenever we fall short of being in commune with Christ (Luke 13:8). Thus, let us not be envious of God’s mysterious work to bring a sinner to Him through the prayer of the saints. Instead, let us glorify Him for finding different means to rescue us from the darkness of sin.