Offering Up Our Suffering

by Friar Jim Van Vurst, O.F.M.

I suspect that most of my readers have heard of the expression “offering it up.” Someone asked me just what it means. It was a good question. There is a fundamental truth that helps us understand this expression. In all of God’s creation, there is a single word that describes who and how we are: relationship. The whole of creation: the universe, all the galaxies, stars, and planets (including our own), are in relationship with each other.

The basic laws of the universe, such as gravity, tell us that we all affect one another. But when it comes to God’s creation of humankind, the idea of relationship takes on unimaginable proportions. We are all created out of love: we are made in God’s image and likeness. And we are related to one another in ways we cannot comprehend. We are more deeply linked together in an interpersonal relationship with God and with each other.

That interpersonal relationship can be seen in the lives of moms and dads who feel hurt when their children are injured or experience rejection: their children’s pain becomes their own. That’s why the word interpersonal describes such a powerful aspect of our human experience—in times of joy and sadness.

Offering it up means …

doing something for those we love. It is the basis for Jesus’ own suffering on the cross. Sometimes we mistakenly think that Jesus died for the sins of humankind. Jesus did not die for something. He died for us all—his brothers and sisters. And in that, we were redeemed. In other words, we did not do anything ourselves to accomplish that. It was only Jesus who could perform such an act of love. Imagine if God had told us to do that on our own. Not a chance!

Offering up something means that, as brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ, we can help one another. We don’t know how it all works or what effect it has on others. That is where faith comes in. We don’t look at ourselves as martyrs in these situations, but as helpers in the lives of others.

It really is a magnificent understanding of how closely we are linked to each other as God’s family. Offering it up can be placed in the same category as prayer. Offering up our own inconvenience, pain, or struggle becomes part of our Christian faith and love for others. It is exactly what Jesus did on the cross. What a privilege that can be for us, too.

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