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Offer it up: Letting God Redeem Your Pain

I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of “offering it up,” which I grew up hearing said so often but explained so little. When I was kid, I used to be told to “offer it up” whenever I complained about being hungry during Mass. I would imagine my hunger floating out of my stomach and up to heaven, thinking, “Did it work?” I remember wondering why Jesus would want my hunger and why I was supposed to offer it to Him. And as I got older, I started to think of the whole thing as just words and nothing more.

But what I didn’t understand then is that “offer it up” isn’t just something we say. It’s a real response to an invitation for intimacy with Christ. When we offer something up to Christ, we’re really offering up ourselves.

Redemptive Suffering

When we talk about offering something up, we’re talking about redemptive suffering. As Catholics, we believe that Christ invites us to unite our suffering with His Passion and that, when we do this, our suffering takes on redemptive power. It can be offered for ourselves or others, for the salvation of souls and to make reparation for sin.

In a broken world like ours, suffering is inevitable. It happens to all of us, but, when we understand what it means to offer ourselves to Christ we can start to see our pain the way St. Paul saw his — united to Christ’s: “I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.” (Col 1:24).

Like the Catechism tells us, “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.” (CCC 1505). On the cross Christ offered us an intimacy with Him that is beyond words; because of His Passion, our suffering and His are one and the same. In our suffering, He draws always nearer to us, never allowing a moment of it to pass without His presence. In every moment of heartache, He holds us more closely.

Giving Our Hearts

This belief that we can offer things up to God is, for me, both the most beautiful and the most
frustrating thing we believe as Catholics. Beautiful because it comes from a divine love that is so
good and so pure that it leaves me speechless. But frustrating because living this belief can be
incredibly challenging.

I tried for a long time to offer up everything I could in an effort to love God more, but I ended up frustrated and wracked with anxiety. I found myself on my knees in adoration, asking God, “What more can I give you?” And the answer was simple: you. I realized that I had given Him everything except my heart.

You see, I had mistaken this belief that we should offer up our sufferings, frustrations, and works for giving God a reason to love me. I couldn’t understand why my God would want me so I searched frantically for something else to give Him—something that I could offer Him in place of a heart I was sure He wouldn’t want. I had tried to hide behind a sacrifice and missed the whole point. Sacrifice wasn’t about making myself worthy for Him; it was about hearing His voice asking to love me in that moment, asking to be with me, and saying yes.

Scripture tells us that Jesus Himself “offered up prayers and supplication with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death” (Hebrews 5:7). Christ, who knows more intimacy with the Father than anyone could imagine, gave His yes through tears and with all honesty of heart. It wasn’t dignified. There was no pretense to be found and nothing for Him to hide behind.

What Offering it up Looks Like

It can start with anything. I know people who offer up anything from their daily workout to chronic illness, from grief and loss to their homework. Starting with something small can be the hardest part, because doubt creeps in and convinces us that our offering isn’t important enough for God. But it’s not about what you do; it’s about why you do it. His heart longs for you, and He will jump at any opportunity to be close to us if only we let Him. Nothing is too small for Him to use.

But what am I supposed to do? That’s a question I used to get stuck on, but it doesn’t need to be as complicated as it might sound. The important thing is to consciously recognize that God is asking to be with you and telling Him yes. This can be done in the morning, offering your works and trials to God before you start the day, or it can be done at the start of a specific task, for example, doing your homework or chores. These things can be offered up for a specific intention, like a friend or family member in need of prayers, or something more general like the salvation of souls.

Sometimes it can help to have a sort of routine for offering things up. I like to use the Anima Christi prayer or the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.

Broken For You

Eucharistic Prayer III says, “Make of us an eternal offering to you so that we may obtain an inheritance with your elect.” In His sacrifice, Christ calls us to join Him in making not just what we do, but also our very hearts an offering to the Father.

Every time we go to Mass, we encounter Christ’s sacrifice in the Eucharist. Looking at what appears to be just a wafer, though, it can be easy to forget that Christ’s body is a wounded one. When we accept the Eucharist into our bodies, we’re accepting someone who is wounded in body and in heart. We’re saying yes to communion with Him and His suffering. Though we could never be worthy of His wounds, we say yes because it is what He desires for us.

About the Author

Sophia Swinford

I'm a theology student at St. Mary's in London, but I'm still an Arizona girl at heart. I basically live off books, coffee, rainy days, and conversations about Jesus, who has stolen my heart and never given it back!

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