We all know how Catholic it is to hear these words: “Offer it up!” But, what does this really mean? It can seem so abstract! Surely it’s good advice, but how does one do this?!
To answer this question, it’s helpful for me to consider suffering and its purpose.
It’s comforting to me to remember that part of being human is to suffer, and because of Jesus, suffering has purpose. Simply and yet mysteriously, our sufferings draw us into Jesus’ Passion and can bring us into union with Jesus Crucified.
The Holy Spirit brings us our sufferings to purify us and change us to look like Jesus on the Cross, slowly and over time. When we die and then rise again, we will look like Jesus Resurrected. When the Father looks down at us, He won’t be seeing our old self but our new self, the self that looks like His Son.
Just as Jesus’ most important job was redeeming us by His Passion, Death and Resurrection, similarly, our sufferings are so important because through these experiences we can be transformed into saints, thus giving glory to God, and are able to assist Jesus with the salvation of souls.
I like to think of “offering it up” as a process of acceptance, obedience, trust and gratitude.
Fortunately, in Jesus we have an excellent example. Jesus accepted the will of the Father. He obeyed by picking up His Cross and carrying it. Despite darkness and feelings of abandonment, He trusted in His Father when he handed over His spirit.
Then, He arose back to life to open the gates of Heaven to humanity. He expressed gratitude when he offered the gift of salvation to the repentant thief. His gratitude and thanksgiving are almost palpable with His words, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”(Luke 23:43)
“Offering it up” can be any combination or order of these phases. I frequently find myself repeating acceptance and struggling with obedience. Maintaining a spirit of gratitude is challenging! Our flesh is directly opposed to this process, but with grace we can follow Jesus, carry our cross, and participate in this amazing, heavenly work!