We long for and want to be continually comfortable and happy; but we were made for so much more than comfort and momentary bliss. Suffering is a natural and regular part of human life. Many of the saints show us that we discover what happiness truly is when we seek to live outside the pleasurable, easy life.
Don’t get me wrong – pain is painful. None of us want or need to seek it out. But we should not see pain as valueless needing to be quickly vanquished.
When we make an offering of our pain, we are allowing ourselves to be united with Christ and allowing ourselves to be at the foot of the Cross with Mary.
Many might wonder how can pain bring us close to Christ. For me personally, I can look back at the hardest and most painful times in my life; and I can see how much I clung closer to Christ. I might not have felt the closeness, but He was always there. Uniting myself with Jesus in those moments with full trust in His love and care, I could see that my pain was a pathway and not a dead end.
“Offer it up” – a phrase that many have heard in our Catholic families. But what does it mean? What in my life is worthy of offering to God? How can my struggles and sacrifices mean much compared to the suffering of Our Lord?
Suffering is a part of life and of love. To live is to struggle and to seek a way through pain. To love someone is to take on their pain and to share the burden of their pain. To offer up to Jesus is to unite our pain with His.
By his passion and death on the cross Christ has given a new meaning to suffering: it can henceforth configure us to him and unite us with his redemptive Passion.” (CCC 1505)
Jesus teaches us that love and pain are the way to salvation. He took upon Himself the pain and suffering of all people to set us free. Jesus did not come to remove pain but rather to redeem it. He takes it a step further and invites us to offer up our pain for salvation.
Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross was the ultimate gift of pain for salvation, but we can cooperate with His giving by offering our pain too. The pain of daily life to chronic illness and everything in between are all worthy of making an offering to God. Each heartfelt offering is an opportunity to unite ourselves more and more with Christ on the cross.
Our Lenten practices can all be part of making an authentic offering:
- Prayer – Offering of our time and our heart to be with Jesus. With our busy schedules and constant demands, have we made time to just be with God? Those moments of prayer communion with God will allow our minds and bodies to more capable of uniting our suffering with Him!
- Fasting – Giving up something to make more room for God. How has our fasting and giving up of things this Lent gone so far? When we are tempted to give in, let us be reminded that these offering are meant to be gifts to God. It is hard but WHO we are sacrificing for makes it all worth it!
- Almsgiving – Giving our time and treasure to help those in need. Sacrificing what we have in order to provide for those who don’t is a sacrifice Jesus demands of us. Remember Matthew 25: 34-36, 40 “Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me…. Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” So, offer what we can to care for others; and we are doing it for Jesus too!
I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect. – Romans 12:1-2
Persevere in our Lenten journey for the rewards are of eternal value!
Author: Laura Stephens, FF Sacrament Preparation Catechist