Saturday, February 26, 2011

Identity: Offering up our Sufferings

Gentle Readers,

In the last week, I have been undergoing testing for confusion and memory loss that began about six months ago and culminated in a blackout related car accident where no one nor any property (other than my poor car) were hurt. It has been a scary time, but I have hope and faith that God is with me and that he will not abandon me. I am a strong believer in the old adege that "God never gives us more than we can handle." His Grace and the prayers of friends have been sustaining me and strengthening when those small moments of doubt (and pity) every so often try to insert themselves.

But God always makes good come out of bad, and one of the "good" things that has come out of this for me is a wonderful blog topic related to our Catholic identity... Offering up our Sufferings with Christ's on the Cross.

We were taught to do it from such a young age... it was second nature like the use of "please" and "thank you"...

fall down and skin your knee... "offer it up"
girlfriend broke up with me... "offer it up"
going in for tonsillectomy... "offer it up"
laying in bed with pneumonia... "offer it up"
testing for memory loss and black outs and brain irregularities... "offer it up"

The words were always easy to say, but the meaning of the those three simple words was so much more complex. It goes to the heart of the Catholic identity and understanding of the nature of suffering... and I am no theologian, but I was taught that "offering up" my suffering meant that I could take all of my sufferings and offer them to Jesus... who would take my sufferings and add them to His own Sufferings on the Cross... and while His Suffering alone was enough to redeem the world, our "little" sufferings do have a co-redeeming value and can be offered up.

This concept and understanding goes to the heart of our own vocabulary... "passion" in Latin means "suffering"... hence Passion Sunday is the "Suffering Sunday" when we remember the Passion of Christ ("Christ's suffering")... it follows from there that when we show "compassion" for others that suffer, we are really "com+passion" in Latin... "with suffering"... we are with their suffering and we can add our own to help them.

Jesus told each of us to pick up our Crosses and to follow Him.... He Himself told us that we would have crosses to carry, sufferings to bear, persecutions to ensure... and that by following Him to Calvary behind His Cross... we can join our sufferings to His. Think of the beauty of that... what can be more Christ-like than to suffer and to offer it up in sacrifice for others?

It is a part of our Catholic identity that is long in the shadows and needs to be recovered. When I tell people of "offer it up" or that I am "offering it up"... they look at me like I am mad (which in light of recent medical testing may be closer to the truth than I'd like to admit), when it is really that they do not understand this important teaching of our Faith.

Let us work together, offering up all of our sufferings to be joined to His for the redemption of the world and reconciliation of sinners.

Adoramus te, Christe, et benedicimus tibi; quia per sanctam Crucem tuam redemisti mundi ...we adore you O Christ, and we bless you, for by your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world