By Dr. Robert Stackpole, STD (Mar 25, 2013)
I received a letter from a Mr. Miller with a question about the meaning of what we "offer" to God in the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy. He wrote: "How can we offer what is not ours? 'Eternal Father, I offer you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of your dearly Beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ...'." But these things belong to Jesus, not to us. So how can we offer them?"
This is an excellent and profound question. I think it would be best to divide the answer into three parts.
1) In a sense, He does belong to us, just as we belong to Him; the New Testament says that the relationship of Jesus to His disciples is so close that we literally become His mystical "Body" on earth, and He fills us with His Spirit (see I Cor 12). Thus, when we offer Him to the Father in the chaplet, we are also offering ourselves in and with Him, and He is offering us in and with Himself. Spiritually, we are so enmeshed as to be inseparable from Him (save by unrepented mortal sin, of course).
2) The New Testament also tells us that our relationship with Christ is so close that it is a relationship of spousal love: Christ is the Bridegroom, and the Church is His Bride (see Eph 5:25-32). As in any true spousal relationship, the spouses, in a sense, belong to each other. The two have become "one flesh" (Gen 2:24).
3) That we can, in a sense, offer Christ to the Father is also enshrined in the Catholic liturgical tradition, and manifest in the Mass even today. Look at Eucharistic Prayer #1 in the Roman Missal: "We offer to You, God of glory and majesty, this holy and perfect sacrifice: the bread of life and the cup of salvation" (so we offer what has just been consecrated, and is no longer bread and wine, but now the "bread of life" and the "cup of salvation." In other words, the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ).
Or look at Eucharistic Prayer #4: "We offer You His Body and Blood, the acceptable sacrifice which brings salvation to the whole world. Lord, look upon this sacrifice which You have given to Your Church; and gather all who share this one bread and one cup into the one Body of Christ, a living sacrifice of praise" (the reference here to the "acceptable sacrifice" is an allusion to Micah 1:11, which the ancient Church Fathers saw as a prophecy of the Eucharistic Sacrifice — the one pure offering to God — that would be offered one day to God everywhere in the world: "For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name is great among the nations, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering, for my name is great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts").
This is surely a great and deep mystery: that we offer up Christ in the Eucharist, and He offers us up, and we offer ourselves in union with Him, and He offers us in union with Himself. But I think it is in line with the implications of Scripture, and made explicit in the liturgical tradition of the Church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We cannot fully comprehend such a holy mystery, but we can see in some ways that it makes sense, and we can believe it on the testimony of the Holy Spirit, who inspired the writing of Holy Scripture, and fashioned the liturgical traditions of the Body of Christ down through the ages.
Robert Stackpole, STD, is director of the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy. His latest book is Divine Mercy: A Guide from Genesis to Benedict XVI (Marian Press). Got a question? E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.