My Faith/Teen Faith Don’t Just “Offer It Up” by Noah Salas As we enter into the season of Lent, what comes to mind for you when you hear the phrase, “offer it up”? If you’re like me, you’re in the midst of deciding what to give up for the upcoming 40 days. You’re scratching off items on your mental checklist of the things you’ve given up in past years but failed to commit to beyond the first half of Lent. You end up making a last minute decision on what to give up, but you’re already beginning to count down the days until Easter, bracing yourself for life without whatever little luxury you’ve decided to forego for Jesus during the next several weeks. “Just offer It Up!” I used to complain about giving up things like video games when I was in middle school. I’d impatiently wait for the day I could re-invite whatever I’d given up back into my life, and completely disregard the meaning throughout Lent. I was barely making it through Lent, desperate for the moment I’d get back whatever I’d given up as soon as Easter Sunday morning hit, without thinking of what was going on during Lent. But with that mentality, I missed the significance behind that small act of sacrifice I was making as each day of Lent passed by. It’s easy to fall into the trap of viewing Lent as nothing more than a time to trudge through suffering and sacrifice until we arrive at Easter Sunday. It’s important to remember during this time, however, that there’s profound meaning to the sacrifice we take on. To recognize this, we first need to change our perspective on what suffering is in the first place. Lay Down Your Life Jesus ends up revealing to us a beautiful mystery when it comes to our suffering, especially in the Gospel of John where he says to his disciples: “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” -John 15:13 The most significant aspect of this verse is that Jesus doesn’t just say this to his disciples, but he lived it out by choosing to die for us on the cross. His sacrifice, His willingness to go through all of that humiliation, torture, and sorrow for you and for me, shows us that, out of suffering comes authentic love. In a season where we wholeheartedly place Christ in the center of our lives, we’re called to reflect on His unconditional love for us. During this time of Lent, through the personal sacrifices we choose to make, Christ invites us to enter into His unconditional love, through what the church calls “redemptive suffering.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes redemptive suffering as the uniting of personal sacrifices with the sacrifice of the cross of Jesus Christ. This unification carries significant merit for the reparation of the physical and spiritual health of others (CCC 1502, 1505, 1521). Unite Suffering to the Cross In other words, we can unite our small suffering to the profound suffering of Christ, and offer it up with Him, as a powerful prayer of sacrifice to the Father, for ourselves and others. Christ’s love for us in the midst of His suffering shows us what love truly looks like. We’re able to reflect this kind of love with Him, through the crosses we choose to carry, no matter how small the sacrifices. Whenever I find the cross of the sacrifice I made starting to get heavy, and I find myself just trying to get through Lent, without recognizing the meaning of what I’m doing, I try to step away from what I’m doing in the moment, and say this prayer: “Lord Jesus, I know I’m struggling right now. You showed us through your sacrifice what real love looks like. As a way to enter into your love, I’m willing to offer this up in union with your cross for the intentions of ________.” Praying words as simple as these carries so much significance. The sacrifices we make during Lent, although they may be small, give us an open opportunity to grow in unconditional love, and to ultimately allow God to continue to bring forth goodness out of the suffering of the cross. Order “Into the Desert: a Journey of Sacrifice and Temptation” as a guide to your Lenten journey. Meet Jesus in the desert and confront the battle of temptation with the power of authentic sacrifice.