The Beauty of “Offering it Up”

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.

Crucifix at Blessed Sacrament Parish, Alexandria

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.

One thought on “The Beauty of “Offering it Up”

  1. The Good Bishop Paul S. Loverde has written another most excellent article here.

    Towards that end of offering up the petty annoyances we can at times experience from family, relatives, friends, co-workers, and colleagues, I have the following of what I hope will be an inspirational short digression into the need to have a certain humility before all of GOD’s rational creatures, philosophically typically referred to as created persons.

    In these times of modern scientific reductionism, our bodily vulnerability and weakness has been made so clear in the tragic deaths resulting from the sudden and ongoing disaster in Japan. We long for a sense of human transcendence in a time when it seems that even the existence of a spiritual and immortal human soul seems uncertain in the minds of many of clergymen.

    When Saint Thomas said that the Human Soul is the substantial form of the body, he was not saying that it physically looked like the body, rather he was using the Platonic or Aristotelian concept of eternal, immaterial, and perfect forms as the reified abstract ideal ideas that things represent.

    Saint Thomas referred to the Soul as the substantial form of the body, ‘substantial” meaning a first created principle of being that is intrinsically independent of the body for its existence and for some of its more advanced operations.

    Now once again, given the Scholastic interpretation of the nature of the human soul, that is the human soul is: 1) Spiritual, 2) Naturally immortal, 3) Incorruptible per addends and per se, 4) Simple, 5) Unextended, 6) Without shape or size, 7) Non-material, 8] Non-corporeal, 9) Rational, 10) Free, 11) A first created principle, 12) An essence or a being which exist per se, 13) Independent of the body for its existence and to some extent its operations in this life, 14) The substantial form of the body in the Ancient Greek philosophical sense of the word, 15) Directly created by God, 16) Immediately created by God, and if I am not mistaken, 17) Multiple meaning that it is completely and totally present and united to every portion of the human body that is alive, we have much grounding through the use of natural reasoning that the human soul is naturally immortal and naturally indestructible. In all, we have at least the above 17 transcendent dignities of the human soul if Saint Thomas Aquinas is to be believed.

    Now read through these quotations from the new Catechism of the Catholic Church which was approved by the very highest levels of the Vatican during 1980s.
    Part 1, Section 1, Chapter 1, SubSection 2

    33 The human person: with his openness to truth and beauty, his sense of moral goodness, his freedom and the voice of his conscience, with his longings for the infinite and for happiness, man questions himself about God’s existence. In all this he discerns signs of his spiritual soul. The soul, the “seed of eternity we bear in ourselves, irreducible to the merely material”, 9 can have its origin only in God.

    Part 1, Section 2, Chapter 1, Article 1, Paragraph 6, SubSection 1

    360 Because of its common origin the human race forms a unity, for “from one ancestor [God] made all nations to inhabit the whole earth”: 226

    O wondrous vision, which makes us contemplate the human race in the unity of its origin in God. . . in the unity of its nature, composed equally in all men of a material body and a spiritual soul; in the unity of its immediate end and its mission in the world; in the unity of its dwelling, the earth, whose benefits all men, by right of nature, may use to sustain and develop life; in the unity of its supernatural end: God himself, to whom all ought to tend; in the unity of the means for attaining this end;. . . in the unity of the redemption wrought by Christ for all. 227.

    Part 1, Section 2, Chapter 1, Article 1, Paragraph 6, SubSection 2

    363 In Sacred Scripture the term “soul” often refers to human life or the entire human person. 230 But “soul” also refers to the innermost aspect of man, that which is of greatest value in him, 231 that by which he is most especially in God’s image: “soul” signifies the spiritual principle in man.

    Part 1, Section 2, Chapter 1, Article 1, Paragraph 6, SubSection 2

    366 The Church teaches that every spiritual soul is created immediately by God – it is not “produced” by the parents – and also that it is immortal: it does not perish when it separates from the body at death, and it will be reunited with the body at the final Resurrection. 235

    Part 1, Section 2, Chapter 1, Article 1, Paragraph 6, SubSection 2

    367 Sometimes the soul is distinguished from the spirit: St. Paul for instance prays that God may sanctify his people “wholly”, with “spirit and soul and body” kept sound and blameless at the Lord’s coming. 236 The Church teaches that this distinction does not introduce a duality into the soul. 237 “Spirit” signifies that from creation man is ordered to a supernatural end and that his soul can gratuitously be raised beyond all it deserves to communion with God. 238.

    Part 1, Section 2, Chapter 1, Article 1, Paragraph 6, SubSection 4

    382 “Man, though made of body and soul, is a unity” (GS 14 # 1). The doctrine of the faith affirms that the spiritual and immortal soul is created immediately by God.

    Part 1, Section 2, Chapter 3, Article 11, SubSection 1, Heading 2
    997 What is “rising”? In death, the separation of the soul from the body, the human body decays and the soul goes to meet God, while awaiting its reunion with its glorified body. God, in his almighty power, will definitively grant incorruptible life to our bodies by reuniting them with our souls, through the power of Jesus’ Resurrection.

    Part 1, Section 2, Chapter 3, Article 12, SubSection 6
    1052 “We believe that the souls of all who die in Christ’s grace . . . are the People of God beyond death. On the day of resurrection, death will be definitively conquered, when these souls will be reunited with their bodies” (Paul VI, CPG § 28].

    Part 2, Section 2, Chapter 1, Article 1, SubSection 7, Heading 5
    1280 Baptism imprints on the soul an indelible spiritual sign, the character, which consecrates the baptized person for Christian worship. Because of the character Baptism cannot be repeated (cf. DS 1609 and DS 1624).

    Part 2, Section 2, Chapter 1, Article 2, SubSection 3
    1304 Like Baptism which it completes, Confirmation is given only once, for it too imprints on the soul an indelible spiritual mark, the “character,” which is the sign that Jesus Christ has marked a Christian with the seal of his Spirit by clothing him with power from on high so that he may be his witness. 121

    Part 3, Section 1, Chapter 1, Article 1

    1705 By virtue of his soul and his spiritual powers of intellect and will, man is endowed with freedom, an “outstanding manifestation of the divine image.” 8

    Part 3, Section 1, Chapter 1, Article 1

    1711 Endowed with a spiritual soul, with intellect and with free will, the human person is from his very conception ordered to God and destined for eternal beatitude. He pursues his perfection in “seeking and loving what is true and good” (GS 15 § 2).

    Part 3, Section 1, Chapter 2, Article 3, SubSection 2

    1934 Created in the image of the one God and equally endowed with rational souls, all men have the same nature and the same origin. Redeemed by the sacrifice of Christ, all are called to participate in the same divine beatitude: all therefore enjoy an equal dignity.

    However, from Sacred Scripture, we are warned not to worry about those who can kill the body but cannot destroy the Soul, but rather fear HIM who can destroy both body and soul in Hell. Even among spiritual anthropologists, there is some disagreement over whether or not the Soul is immortal by grace only, and even in some cases, whether or not the human soul can and may ceased to exist in Hell, at least after a while.

    However, the Church Teaching on the Human Soul is that it is indeed immortal. The Church teaches that Hell is eternal, most especially a state of eternal separation from GOD. I still struggle with what such statements imply in the utmost rigorous sense given the mysterious and currently veiled ultimate plans of GOD in HIS Divine Economy.

    Now, assuming that Hell is eternal, especially in eternal separation from GOD, we can come to an agreement that such eternal separation signifies a lack of Sanctifying Grace, even in the case that Souls in Hell last or live naturally forever because of any absolutely universal grace of immortality bestowed on the condemned and saved alike.

    What we can be assured of is that the Supernatural Grace or Life of every human soul still on this side of the curtain of death can be corrupted by free and even semi-free sinful acts. We can also likely assume that the accidental properties of the human soul can become corrupted, including those of Saintly and wise old folks who become ill with dementia such as Alzheimer’s decease, strokes, and other age related problems. Severe mental disorders such as Schizophrenia can result in a partial disintegration of the personality of those afflicted with such conditions especially in the 1/3 of the cases that are notoriously hard to treat even with the best medications.
    However, assuming that the punishment of Hell is eternal, the Souls who unfortunately end up in Hell, remain precisely the Souls and Persons they are, regardless of the accidental and perhaps even substantial degrading or even at least partially corrupting effects of material agents referred to as Hell Fire even if such materials are non-physical.

    In order for a Soul to be forced to undergo everlasting punishment, there must be an utterly eternally lasting personal identity of the condemned that is as utterly naturally immutable as the morally binding state of the Soul that merits eternal punishment and separation from GOD.

    GOD cannot non-contradictorily punish a Soul in an eternally binding matter if the punished human soul cannot undergo eternal punishment in a morally binding manner that presupposes the eternal existence of the personal identity of the condemned souls.

    In order for eternal punishment to even be plausible, eternal personal responsibility of the eternally punished presupposes the utterly eternal existence and immutability of the characteristics of the condemned soul that make the condemned soul the person that it is, and not, not the soul or person that it is.

    This aspect of the Soul is the very heart of its identity and existence, even in cases where the accidental properties and at least some secondary substantial properties of the condemned souls can be and in at least some cases, perhaps are corrupted in eternal damnation.

    A person must always be his or her person and a human soul must always be itself and nothing else, in such a manner that the nature, existence, and essence of the person being his or her person and the nature, existence, and essence of the soul always being itself cannot ever be corrupted otherwise, the morally binding judgment of GOD in the manifestation of eternal punishment would have no reason for being real or existing.

    Perhaps the above argument points to some sort of essence of the substance of the soul which in turn supports its accidental properties. What this property or meta-substantial or super-substantial entity is may remain a veiled mystery, but if such a reality exist in or for the human soul, it is certainly immutably what it is.

    God will never take back what HE has created, especially with regards to the existence of human souls, even those that unfortunately end up in Hell. The same argument can also be applied to the angels including the fallen angels. IMHO, since the punishment of Hell is severe, the souls that go there are most assuredly fully naturally alive and will remain so for all eternity. Otherwise, they could not experience the effects of severe punishment.

    Now we can and should rebuke maleficent evil spirits as enemies of GOD when we fall under their attacks, but we must never curse either condemned human souls nor fallen angels including Satan out of vengeful hatred or out of an angry desire or hateful desire for GOD to harm them. Such evil spirits are miserable enough, and as fellow rational creatures, we thus share a solidarity with them as fellow created persons, even though such persons will never appreciate this fact. For in a real sense, the Love of GOD shines on the just as well as the unjust.

    Now do not get me wrong, I am in no way advocating collusion with, worship of, or even moral praise for evil spirits, although I am certain that to hate such persons and to vengefully call down GOD’s wrath on them is a strong sign of personal undue pride or lack of humility. Besides, when we give into the temptation to vengefully curse evil spirits, we travel down the road a little closer to Hell ourselves.

    By all means, rebuke the attacks of Satan and His followers and pray daily for protection from them, but then so in a spirit of humility, the same humility expressed in the phrase “we humbly pray” in the famous prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel where we ask for His protection “from the wickedness and snares of the Devil”.

    IMHO, there are many mysteries, both philosophical and theological about the human soul, and we will have all eternity in Heaven to ponder them in utter joy and peace and with an utter sense of delight in the whimsical. Let us strive to love all GOD’s creatures and put aside the hate. Our former World War II enemies in Japan, now our friends, offer us a lesson on civility and chivalry as they band together to support their fellow country men and women in the unfolding tragedy that has stricken Japan.

    If a 1980’s militaristic redneck son of a career nuclear Navy man such as my former self can come to express a certain humility with regards to the worst of enemies of the human race, although I admit that I am far from sainthood and will in fact be attending the Sacrament of Reconcilliation within a week of today, then perhaps all of us can feel more confident in a developing ability and grace to offer up our daily trials and tribulations at the hands of others still living.



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