Redemptive Suffering

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Have you ever heard a parent, teacher, or friend tell you to “Offer it up” when you were experiencing some discomfort or pain? 

It often feels like a trite saying tossed about by well-meaning Catholics but it contains within it a rich and mysterious teaching of the Church. 

Unlike the rest of the world, Catholics do not see suffering as something to fear; it was through Christ’s Passion that our salvation came. Instead, we can see it as an opportunity to cooperate in the redemption of souls. 

Suffering and Death did not exist in God’s original plan for humanity. However, because of the sin committed by our first parents, Adam and Eve, they became inevitable parts of the human experience–a natural consequence for our disobedience. 

Illness, anxieties, addiction, frustrations, inconveniences–our world is full of sufferings big and small. Thankfully, we have a God who understands what we are going through because He’s been there too. 

God the Father did not even spare His only Son from these harsh realities, and in fact, through them instilled Hope among His followers.

Not only is our salvation found through the suffering and death of Jesus, but through it, God also raises up our suffering transforming it into another way by which we can grow closer to Him. 

Pope Saint John Paul II in Salvifici Doloris wrote:  “In bringing about the Redemption through suffering, Christ raised human suffering to the level of the Redemption. Thus each man, in his sufferings, can also become a sharer in the redemptive suffering of Christ.” 

God invites us into Christ’s saving work; He wants us to help bring other souls to Him. 

Our suffering–everything from minor inconveniences to larger heartbreaks–can become Redemptive when we actively, willingly, and joyfully unite our suffering to the Cross. 

Offering up your suffering to the Crucified Christ gives new meaning to your pain, as you participate in Jesus’ profound act of charity and recognize your place in the Mystical Body of Christ. 

Words of Encouragement from the Saints 

We can learn so much wisdom and take solace in the words of the saints, who learned how to embrace suffering for the salvation of souls. Here are just a few words from our heavenly brothers and sisters to encourage you in seasons of suffering and difficulty:

“Pain and suffering have come into your life, but remember pain, sorrow, suffering are but the kiss of Jesus — a sign that you have come so close to Him that He can kiss you.” – (Mother Teresa of Calcutta)

“I understood that to become a saint one had to suffer much, seek out always the most perfect thing to do, and forget self. I understood, too, that there are many degrees of perfection and each soul was free to respond to the advances of the Our Lord, to do little or much for Him, in a word, to choose among the sacrifices He was asking. Then, as in the days of my childhood, I cried out: ‘My God I choose all!’ I do not want to be a saint by halves. I’m not afraid to suffer for You. I fear only one thing: to keep my own will; so take it, for I choose all that You will!” (St. Therese of Lisieux

“The Christian’s motto is the Cross. You will recognize God’s love by this sign, by the sufferings He sends you.” (St. Padre Pio)

“You will save more souls through prayer and suffering than will a missionary through his teachings and sermons alone.” (Jesus to Saint Faustina)

“If you really want to love Jesus, first learn to suffer, because suffering teaches you to love.” (St. Gemma Galgani).

“Dying on the Cross He left to His Church the immense treasure of the Redemption, towards which she contributed nothing. But when those graces come to be distributed, not only does He share this work of sanctification with His Church, but He wills that in some way it be due to her action. This is a deep mystery, and an inexhaustible subject of meditation, that the salvation of many depends on the prayers and voluntary penances which the members of the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ offer for this intention.” (Pope St. Pius XII)

“Those who pray and suffer, leaving action for others, will not shine here on earth; but what a radiant crown they will wear in the kingdom of life! Blessed be the ‘apostolate of suffering!” (St. Josemaria Escriva)

“He who wishes to love God does not truly love Him if he has not an ardent and constant desire to suffer for His sake.” (St. Aloysius Gonzaga)

“To the prospect of the Kingdom of God is linked hope in that glory which has its beginning in the Cross of Christ. The Resurrection revealed this glory — eschatological glory. … Those who share in the sufferings of Christ are also called, through their own sufferings, to share in glory.” (Pope St. John Paul II)

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