Holy Week

"Offer It Up"

Has anyone ever suggested that you "offer it up" when you were suffering? Did you know what they meant? If you did, how did you take the advice?

"Offer it up" is excellent advice if we understand how it relates to the Cross of Christ, offer the advice sensitively, and follow the advice prayerfully.

First, we need to understand that as baptized Christians, we mystically participate in the Cross of Christ: "Or are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?" (Romans 6:3). As a result, we can unite our personal sufferings with Christ's suffering. Jesus offered up his suffering to the Father as a sacrifice that redeemed the world. When we unite our sufferings with Christ's, they are transformed into redemptive suffering. This means we can offer our pain as a sacrificial prayer (e.g. as penance for our sins or intercession for others) that makes a real difference in the world.
Consider what St. Paul says in Colossians 1:24: "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church." This doesn't mean that Christ's sufferings on the Cross were insufficient, but it does mean that we can participate in them and thus add something to them. We can come to the aid of our spiritual brothers and sisters in arms—the members of the Church—by offering up our sufferings.

The Catechism puts it this way: "On the cross Christ took upon himself the whole weight of evil and took away the 'sin of the world'... 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. Christ invites his disciples to follow him by taking up their cross in their turn" (CCC 1505-1506).
We "offer it up" at any time, but the Mass is a special time for doing this. Christ's sacrifice is made present on the altar, and we have an opportunity to offer ourselves and our sufferings as sacrifices to the Father in union with the Son for the redemption of the world. What an amazing privilege!

"Offer it up" means that our pain isn't meaningless. In Christ, it literally helps to save the world.
Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting this campaign of Christian service, so that, as we take up battle against spiritual evils, we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint.

This collect prayer begins the Mass for Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Jesus is calling us to "take up battle against spiritual evils." We'll explore fasting itself in a few weeks; during the week of Ash Wednesday, we're going to dig into an important set of weapons the Lord gives us to fight evil: sacramentals.

What's a sacramental? Well, if you attend Mass on Ash Wednesday, you're probably going to receive one on your forehead.