“Offer it up!” How many times have Catholic Mothers or Fathers said this to their children over the years? We encounter a difficulty, problem or trial that we cannot surmount; we fail at something, we lose something or compromise in a situation. What can we do? “Offer it up!” Comes the age old advise.
I did not get to hear this saying until I was an adult, you see I was raised a Protestant and I was more likely to hear a similar phrase, “give it to the Lord.” I converted to Catholicism after I fell seriously ill at the age of 33. The two phrases sound as though they are offering similar advice, but they are not. There is a world of difference between them, and for me, that difference was one of the key points that led to my conversion.
When a Catholic says “offer it up!” it is my understanding that you are offer up your pain, your loss, your failure etc. Not so Jesus can fix it, it is too late for that. No, you are offering up your resignation to the situation, but more importantly, you are saying to the Lord, “take this loss, disappointment or failure and use it for my good or the good of others… and for Your glory, Lord.”
The first time I heard those words, I was in my thirties and bed-bound with the illness ME. I had made friends with a Catholic lady who was teaching me the value of suffering in Christ. As a Protestant, my illness was hard to understand; I thought that I had lived a good life and suffering was nothing more than an injustice to me.
My Catholic friend taught me to resign my fate to the Lord, not to seek a cure – although that was possible, but to seek something better – the will of God! It took time, but with her advice and the lives of the Saints as an example, I finally offered it up… truly, offered it up!
Then something amazing happened, God’s grace came in abundance and blessed my life with just about everything but a cure. The first thing that came was an awakening of the spirit, I fell in love with Jesus and had that “personal relationship” that my Protestant brothers were always talking about. Then came the character change, I no longer looked for my own good but for the good of others and the glory of my Lord. This brought great joy to my life – even amidst the pain and helplessness of my illness. Finally, my whole world changed as my whole life became an offering to God. When I had pain, I offered it up – for the good of souls and God’s glory. What I received in return was not a cure but grace, grace that made tears of joy flow, grace that taught me how to love and grace that revealed to me the beauty of life.
You see when we use to say “give it to the Lord,” we were looking for Him to lighten the load, to take the burden and even to cure the ill. But we were cutting ourselves short here, we were asking the Lord to do what we could not, but we were giving away that grace, that grace that can only come with complete submission. We were not saying “use this Lord,” we were saying “take this Lord.” We were not saying let me carry my cross for love of You Lord,” we were saying “Lord, take this cross.”
The problem is Jesus told us to take up our cross daily and follow Him, and unless we do that, we shall never fully taste the joy of sharing in the work of salvation, that He wants us to enjoy.
God does not need us to help Him in the work of salvation, His sacrifice was sufficient for all. So why does He invite us to help Him? So that we can reach the summit of perfection and experience the joy of giving and the beauty of sharing in that perfect love. As I once heard: A mother does not need help in the kitchen when baking a cake, she has the ingredients, the knowledge and the tools. But she allows her daughter to help her bake the cake because it benefits the daughter to do so, and because there is joy in giving, both for the daughter and the mother.
So the next time you feel at a loss in some situation, you are in pain, fear, sorrow, or regret, don’t “give it to the Lord” expecting Him to lighten your load, but “offer it up” and say “Your will be done Lord.” If God wishes to take you out of that situation, then all well and good, but if He leaves you there, then just have faith and await the grace to come.
I converted to Catholicism, received the Sacraments in my bed and later was released from my illness to live a normal life, but I still look back with a warmth at those grace filled years (20 years of illness in total, 13 of them bed-bound) And I know that I still enjoy the benefits of the lessons that I was taught, the grace that I received and the love that I experienced each day from that period of “offering it up!”
Thank you Lord for the agony and the ecstasy.