Further Dialogue on the Chaplet - and on Innocent Suffering

My last two columns sparked some interesting responses from some of our online readers, so this week I thought I would go deeper into these matters.

Two weeks ago I wrote a response to a letter on the question: "If God is so merciful, why do the innocent suffer so much?"

My response focused on our need to trust the infinite Wisdom of God, for He knows why He permits what He does.

A reader named Annie wrote in and asked if He always permits innocent suffering for the sake of a greater good.

Yes, Annie, if I understand you correctly, I think you must be right. The only possible reason that God permits sin and suffering in His world is that He knows it is possible for some good to come out of such permitted evils - indeed, a GREATER good than if He had not permitted those evils to occur.

That doesn't mean that we will always be able to see what the greater good is in God's plan: After all, our human perspective on the "big picture" of history is fairly limited. Moreover, that doesn't mean that human beings will always seize the chance to cooperate with God in bringing about those greater goods. Alas, as you say, it is truly amazing how hard-hearted and stubborn so many people seem to be, but at least the opportunity is there.

For example, God could have stopped the planes from hitting their terrorist targets on 9-11, but He did not do so. He wants human beings to have the dignity of free will, even if (like the terrorists) they terribly misuse it; for it is only creatures with free will that can actually love one another, and Himself.

Robots, and puppets on a string, cannot truly love, for love is a free act: so for God to accord to us the capacity to love involves Him permitting the possibility that we will use our freedom to hate instead. In this particular situation, perhaps He permitted the tragedy of 9-11 because He wanted Americans to wake up from their slumber of materialism and hedonism, and return to the Christian values and priorities upon which our nation was founded: faith, family, and freedom. For a very short while we did. But now?

Last week I wrote a column on the question: "In the Chaplet, how can we offer what does not belong to us?" That is, the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. There are some astute theologians among our readers, because a Mr. Goebel wrote to tell me that he understood that we offer the Body and Blood of Jesus to the Father in the Mass, but how can we offer non-bodily things, like His Soul and Divinity?

First of all, the mention of "divinity" in the Chaplet offering could mean the "divinised" (i.e., glorified and sanctified) humanity (body and soul) of the risen and ascended Jesus Christ. If that is what our Lord meant when He taught these words of the Chaplet to St. Faustina, then He was using the terminology of the Eastern Christians (and remember that Poland is on the borderline, so to speak, of the Christian East and West). In that case, what we are offering to God in the Chaplet is the divinised humanity of His Son.

Second, another possibility is that by "divinity" in the Chaplet Jesus was referring to His divine Person in His incarnate state. In that case, what we are offering to the Father is His own Son insofar as His Son was/is incarnate in a fully human nature, body and soul (i.e., insofar as He has a human nature).

In fact, it is not clear to me that there is any real theological difference between these two options, since to offer the divinised humanity of Christ to the Father is to offer that humanity only insofar as it is the humanity of a divine Person, the divine Son of God.

The Catholic Church has actually faced this issue many times before. For example, when the angel appeared to the three children at Fatima, he asked the children to offer the "body, blood, soul, and divinity" of Jesus Christ to the Holy Trinity. This prayer has always been found theologically acceptable by the Church.

Finally, Mr. Goebel, I know that you have difficulty understanding how we offer the "soul" of Jesus in the Chaplet, and not just His Body and Blood. Remember that when we speak at Mass of the "Body" and "Blood" of Jesus, this is really just shorthand for the fullness of the mystery of Christ's "Real Presence" in the Eucharist.

Please see Catechism entry 1374, which tells us that "the whole Christ" is present for us in the consecrated bread and wine: body, blood, soul, and divinity. After all, since Jesus is the divine Son dwelling among us as a fully human being, and a human being is by definition a composite unity of body and soul (see Catechism entry 365), it would not be possible for the living and risen Christ to be fully present to us in and through the Blessed Sacrament unless His soul was present, in union with His body. In other words, we cannot offer His Body apart from His soul, for in the living and glorified Christ these are eternally inseparable!

Thanks to all for your excellent questions and follow-up questions!

Robert Stackpole, STD
John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy

Got a question? E-mail me at questions@thedivinemercy.org.

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