by Michael Podrebarac
“By offering the Immaculate Victim, not only through the hands of the priest, but also with him, they should learn also to offer themselves.”
(Second Vatican Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, no. 48).
In their deliberations on the sacred liturgy, the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council desired that the faithful participate fully in the rites of the Mass. In some ways, this participation is external — gestures, responses, singing. But more importantly, this participation is internal — joining the mind and heart to the sacred words and actions, appreciating their purpose and meaning, and drawing inward grace from them.
We stand now in the midst of the holiest days of the church year: the “three days” centered around Jesus’ cross and resurrection.
We began by commemorating his actions in the Upper Room: Jesus’ institution of the Eucharist and of the ministerial priesthood; and his commandment that we love one another as he has loved us.
Today we gather before his holy cross, our minds focused on his passion and death, recognizing already his triumph over suffering and death which restores life to the world. From that same cross, Jesus will go to slumber in the tomb, and then rise triumphant. The external signs and actions of the Triduum (“three days”) draw us into his paschal mystery.
Easter is about to come; indeed, it is already present among us, for we do not stumble through these days with the same sadness and confusion which owned those who were with him in history. No, we know the “end of the story,” as it were, the fact of his resurrection, fulfilling for us his promise of divine mercy.
And so next Sunday, on the octave of his resurrection, we are called by the church to participate in his singular act of mercy. We are called to remember that the mercy he showed us, we are to show one another. We are called to ask for this mercy, to plead for it again and again — and not only for us, but for the whole world.
Divine Mercy Sunday, the name given to this “eighth day” of our Lord’s resurrection, is an extraordinary opportunity to celebrate God’s mercy, to enjoy that mercy ourselves, and to mercifully commend it to others. The church has provided a wonderful way, based on the Lord’s revelations to St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, to implore this mercy: by offering the Father the gift of his Son’s “Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity” — the Eucharist!
He has left this most holy sacrament to his church to show again and again to the Father. We are called to join the priest in making this offering — not with the same outward signs that the priest alone can employ — but in our hearts. And joining our hearts to the church’s actions, we are able to fully enter into Christ’s perfect offering, by which he makes of us “an everlasting gift” to the Father.
“Eternal Father, I offer thee the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, of thy dearly beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins, and those of the whole world.” These simple words from the Chaplet of Divine Mercy economize the meaning of the Eucharist in our everyday lives.
As we have witnessed again through the church’s liturgy Christ’s passion, death and resurrection, let us again and again — on Divine Mercy Sunday, and every day of the year — offer this great gift of gifts, the Immaculate Victim, in our participation in holy Mass, in our prayer and devotion, and in our own works and aspirations of mercy.