Offer it UP!

“Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”
Beloved in the Lord Jesus,
Today in the Gospel, Our Lord calls us to radical discipleship; he says it will involve the cross; To be a Catholic Christian is not for wimps, it is not always so popular a life, but it is a wonderful, free, and fulfilling life. Strange as it may seem, the wonderful life of a true Christian means encountering also – the cross. ‘Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.’ There are a lot of false Christianities floating around out there. People live a bourgeois lifestyle, the easy, spoiled life; they say that they are Catholics, but they follow whatever are the latest ideas. Some think of Christianity without the cross – they want an emotional experience of religion, or the comfort of religion, or the assurance of salvation – but they do not want the cross. It is ‘Christianity-lite.’ In many ways, they’ve returned to the Old Testament. The ancient Jews believed that if you live a good life and pray and love God, your business will thrive, you won’t have problems, you won’t suffer, bad things won’t happen to you; this is Old Testament thinking.
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Jesus however says, to be my disciple you have to carry your cross, there will be crosses. The protestant world says that Jesus died on the cross so that we don’t have to do anything. But this is totally wrong! Jesus calls us to follow him and share in his life and offer our joys our sufferings our whole life to God – just like he did!
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There is a rule in the Catholic Church, that wherever the Mass is offered, there must be a crucifix on or near the altar. The cross is important for us, not just because Jesus died on it, but because, as he says, we – each of us, must carry our cross and do our part. As a child, when difficulty came, mom would say to us: ‘Offer that up to God.’ Offer it up! We heard that a lot, we tried to offer hard things. This was the way that Catholics talked not long ago; I am wondering if we’ve lost this understanding, of being ‘other Christs’ on earth, offering our own crosses, uniting them with that of Jesus. This is really the heart of the Gospel; my mother knew it, many knew it – we must know this. St. Paul says, ‘We are heirs with Christ, heirs – if – We are heirs with Christ, – if – we suffer with him.
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Here is from the Catechism: It says: Christ, in his incarnate divine person, has united himself to every person, offering them the possibility of being made partners in the paschal mystery (paraphrased from 618). And Pope John Paul said: Christ has raised human suffering to the level of the Redemption. Thus each person, in his suffering, can become a sharer in the redemptive suffering of Christ (Salvifici Doloris, 19). In other words: ‘Offer it up!’ Offer up your trials to God. Sometimes our cross is physical pain: a bad knee, a sore back, a serious illness. Sometimes our cross is an emotional one: anxiety, stress, or worry. A tragedy involving a relative or even a child. Sometimes our cross is spiritual: doubts, past sins and their consequences, dryness in prayer, guilt, despair, temptations.
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At Our Lord’s Passion there were 3 crosses on that hill: One was a cross of rebellion – the bad thief, who wanted out of his suffering. Another was a cross of acceptance – the good thief, who did not choose his pain but he accepted it. The other cross was embraced – Jesus gave his all – all his suffering willingly, for us. We are glorifying God in our life and participating in the salvation of the world, of our family, of others – whenever we offer it up. For you, who are a spiritual person, I am only telling you what you already know, deep down in your heart. When that trial comes, when we are in great pain: ‘Lord, I offer this to you. I offer it for my daughter who is away from the Church. ‘I offer it for my past sins. I offer it for your glory, with Jesus, in his Passion. – Jesus!’ When we pick up the phone and that tragic news hits us – we don’t know if we can live through what has happened – Offer it up. ‘Oh Lord, O Jesus, Son of the Living God, help me to offer this, help me;’ we are on the cross, together. If you do not know the spiritual life at all, you will say that this is nonsense. But if you have that gift, you know what I am saying. There is a power that comes to earth unseen, when we Offer it Up. And even some children know this great Mystery, of how to offer trials; they are not far from the Kingdom of Heaven.
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The opposite of offering it up and embracing our cross is self-pity, to have a ‘victim mentality,’ the ‘poor me’ A selfish-brooding over one’s own misfortunes. Self-pity puts a person at the center of their own little universe; they believe everything is against them, they’ve been dealt an unfair hand in life; they take themselves too seriously and exaggerate their difficulties. Here you find the melodramatic person who is not really interested in solutions for their troubles, they just want to tell you about them. The victim mentality craves attention, and projects misery in order to receive sympathy. It is an attitude full of ingratitude to God. But if you look at the saints, they hated the ‘victim thing.’ St. Teresa of Avila couldn’t stand to hear about ‘wallowing in self;’ St. Josemaria refused to hear of being victims. Mother Teresa said, sacrifices made with self-pity are worse than no sacrifices at all. She said: “There is a story of a little robin; he saw Jesus on the cross, saw the crown of thorns. The bird flew around and around until he found a way to remove a thorn, and in removing the thorn stuck himself. – Each of us should be like that bird,’ she said. Participating in the passion of Christ, and easing his pain. But more than the saints, Christ rejected self-pity: ‘Whoever does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.’
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If we could really grasp the gospel, we would see that the cross in our life can be our glory. True story: A women lay dying in the hospital – a mother of 3 children. Outside the room in the hall, her priest was pacing and thinking of what he will say to her. The husband comes out and says, ‘Father, she wants to talk to you.’ the priest walked in, still trying to think of what he will say; as he sat down next to her the young woman looked at him with serenity: ‘Father, isn’t it wonderful – I am sharing in the sufferings of Christ.’ (He said, it was the most beautiful moment in his priesthood.) But Offering it Up does not only help those for whom we offer it. It helps us. If you want to talk to someone who is sympathetic, wise, patient, and loving, you have to find someone who has been through trials, who has suffered. Bees live on bitter food when making their honey, the best honey comes from the most bitter herbs. In the same way we produce great virtue and grow in holiness, by accepting bitter trials and offering them up.
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The other secret is, that when we offer our pain or heartache, the trials strangely become bearable – no, actually meaningful, easier. St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi said: Those who offer their sufferings to God soon find their pain to be very sweet, for as Jesus says: My yoke is easy and my burden light.
Let us conclude with the advice of St. Francis de sales: He says: ‘To be perfect, we must not only accept the cross that comes to us, but we must delight in it; not because we are weak, but for God’s greater glory. What I say may seem hard, he says, but believe me, when you put it into practice, it will be sweeter than honey. May the Blessed Virgin Mary be with us in our trials, and spur us on, to offer everything up, that we may truly be partners with Christ, in his salvific work. + 

[Entrusted to the prayers of St Margaret of  Cortona]

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