By: Bishop Paul S. Loverde
Like me, you may have grown up listening to your mother, father or teacher gently chide you to “Offer it up!” when you complained about a bad-tasting food, an inconvenience or a chore you did not wish to complete.
It is easy to grow impatient when reminded by others to accept even our small crosses. However, “offering it up” is an important aspect of our Faith that warrants some prayerful pondering. Christ even commanded us in the Gospel to take up our crosses and follow Him; in fact, when Christ told his disciples about the suffering He would experience and Peter protested, Christ called him “Satan.”
He turned around and, looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.’ He summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, ‘Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.’ (Mk. 8:31-34)
Certainly, His sacrifice on the Cross was more than enough to redeem us from our sins, but in order to allow us to grow in union with Him and to offer our sacrifices and mortifications for the good of others, He invites us to share in His suffering. How this happens is a great mystery, which St. Paul phrased in these words: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church” (Col. 1:24).
In a way, this could be compared to a mother who allows her very young children to “help” her prepare dinner. The mother does not necessarily need the help; indeed, she could efficiently handle it on her own. But the mother recognizes the importance of the child becoming a part of the process, while along the way learning a task and having the opportunity to contribute to the family’s well-being through a gift of love and time. God in His loving Providence leaves room for us to join Christ’s sacrifice for the sake of our own sanctification and for the salvation of others.
It is so easy to get caught up in our own daily annoyances – our car will not start, someone said something unkind, we were not given credit for a project at work. But when we see these annoyances in light of our Christian vocation, we realize that they are the places where we make the most spiritual progress and bear the greatest fruit. Like all spiritually good acts, this unification of our small crosses with the great Cross of Christ must be done in God’s grace. Therefore we do not just intend and make an effort to “offer it up,” we also pray for the grace to do so. By His grace, these troubles will actually be a source of peace and joy for us and a potent intercession for others.
This is the beauty of prayer and sacrifice — they unite all members of the body of Christ, especially through the reception of Christ at Mass through the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. Let us pray for a renewed sense of “offering it up” as we walk this Lenten journey.