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“Offer It Up”

September 11, 2012 2 comments

It seems to be something of a catch-phrase in modern Catholic culture, but what do we really mean when we say “offer it up.”? It’s more than just a religious way of saying “Suck it up” or “Quit complaining” (although that’s implied). It’s also more than a simple invitation to prayer. Those three words are an invitation to PARTICIPATE in the gospel.

It’s easy for us these days to read the bible or hear stories of how God worked in the lives of people long ago and think that it no longer applies to us. It can feel as if we got the short end of the stick. It’s tempting to think, “In the old days they had Peter and Paul and JESUS showing them the way face to face; explaining the mysteries, performing the miracles and demonstrating the example of how to live the Christian life. Now we have a book that tells us everything we missed.” What a bummer.

The reality however, is something entirely different. God lives outside of time. Jesus is Christ outside of time. He did not choose one specific instance in time to join us here in this world so that every other generation could realize what it missed.  Instead, he inserted himself into humanity after it had fallen away at juuust such a point when the example of his life, love and teachings could be fully exemplified, documented, transmitted AND PERPETUATED… That’s right, perpetuated.

The gospel is perpetuated through the written word of God in the bible, it is perpetuated in the Sacraments that Christ instituted; it is perpetuated through the Tradition of the Church; and it is perpetuated through our lives.

One of the consistent themes that we see through the gospel is that Jesus does not want to be crowned as king (on this earth) and he did not want the miracles that he performed to be publicized (before the ascension). If you cited the fact that he was “meek and humble of heart” as a reason for this you would be right. If you cited the fact that his “kingdom is not in this world” you would be correct as well. But you would also be missing something.

Jesus kept his miracles and power on the down-low because he knew that they would attract the wrong crowd. You will notice that in EVERY instance of Jesus performing a miracle; it was as a result of faith ALREADY present or a result of compassion distinct to the person or people who he was helping. It was NEVER an attempt to win believers or disciples. “Why not?” you might ask. It certainly would have been effective. Even when he was trying to avoid it, the miracles and authority with which he taught brought many to him, but I suspect they were the same that left him when his teachings became difficult to accept.

The Jews had experienced centuries of pain and subjugation at the hands of foreign rulers and they had been promised a messiah who would be their redeemer and savior. We see those terms very spiritually and theologically now, but to most Jews of Jesus’ time, they were very physical and legal ones. Much of the Old Testament is filled with a circular theme: God’s people turn away from him; He warns them and then allows them to fall into bondage by a foreign nation; they repent of their infidelity; God rescues them and brings them prosperity (until they fall away again and the cycle continues).  Each time, when His people turned back to Him, God redeemed them and saved them from their bondage in a physical way. When Jesus walked the earth, Jews were the subjects of the Roman Empire and they were greatly anticipating a savior, redeemer and king who would overthrow the Roman government, establish peace, freedom and prosperity in Jerusalem free from pain, hunger and disease. They were missing the point…

This cycle of bondage and redemption that we observed in the Old Testament was only the symptomatic outbreak of a much more pervasive disease – their bondage to sin.  The peace and prosperity that the Jews were looking for (and all of us are looking for too if we are honest with ourselves) cannot exist in a world that is still in bondage – a world that isn’t free to love. This is the subjugation which Christ came to save us from and the freedom which he came to redeem us for. Jesus consistently pointed to the fact that he wasn’t here to remove our suffering – he was here to remove our sins (which causes our suffering). God could have chosen to remove the suffering of His people as He had done in days past. Instead, He did something much more profound – He gave it value. He took Satan’s currency and placed the image of His son as a seal on top of it.

As a result of the Crucifixion, our suffering isn’t gone, but it has meaning – or at least it can. Christ demonstrated by suffering on the cross for our redemption that it is possible for the pains we encounter in this life to be applied as grace to other people or causes greater than ourselves. When we suffer, we have two options: (1) Complain and ask God to make it go away, or (2) thank God for the gift of His son and unite our sufferings to His for the redemption of the world or any specific cause in union with His holy will. Christ said, “Anyone who wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” Saint Paul invites us to, “offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to the Lord.” He also mentions how he “makes up what is lacking in the cross of Christ.” All of these statements point to the same reality. The Gospel is not just a series of books, it’s an invitation to a transformed life that participates in the good news of our redemption.

That transformation will show itself in every aspect of a genuine Christian life, but it will shine most brilliantly in the way that we handle suffering: Do we see it as a burden or an opportunity? Are we focusing on ourselves or on God? Is it a chance to complain or a chance to grow in humility, virtue and appreciation of the cross? Will it cause us to worry or to trust, to hate or to love? Will it bring tension to our relationships or union with Christ? Will we allow Satan to claim that instance in our lives for his purpose, or mark his coins with the image of Christ crucified and place them in heaven’s treasury?

 

If this is a foreign concept to you and you want some practical steps or suggestions here is a quick step by step:

  1. Recognize an area in your life which is not ideal.
  2. Pray: Thank Jesus for the gift of his life and offer your inconvenience, pain or suffering in unison with his cross for any cause which he puts on your heart (possibly someone else’s wellbeing, your vocation, a virtue etc.).
  3. Quit complaining: Resist the natural urge to be unhappy about your situation and instead reflect on the cross and be grateful for the spiritual currency to affect your cause. Choose to be positive regardless of how you feel.
  4. Make it a habit: As you go through your day and your life, start conditioning yourself to take every situation that is less than ideal and offer it up in thanks to God for the good news of our salvation and the opportunity to grow closer to Him.
  5. Don’t give up: you may not see results immediately (or ever in this world) for the causes that you are offering up. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that is the end of the story. Remember, God’s timing is much better than ours.

 

That which we desire least has the power to unite us with Him who we desire most. The suffering in our life has the ability to unite us more closely to Him who suffered everything for love of us. I pray we don’t waste the opportunity…

 

AMDG