“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church” (Col. 1:24).
Since becoming Catholic five years ago from Evangelical roots, the Church’s teaching on redemptive suffering has been a constant source of awe for me. The idea is that in a real, yet mystical way, we can unite our sufferings with Christ’s sufferings in his passion and cross for the salvation of the world.
If you grew up Catholic, you too may have frequently heard the phrase, “offer it up,” and this concept may have lost its impact on you. As someone who had never heard this phrase, concept, or teaching before, the newness of redemptive suffering is always fresh. Recently, one of my friends demonstrated to me just how radical this teaching is when it is lived out.
My friend Angela has had a lot of suffering in her life. Without going into the details of her life, this text I received from her recently sums up her attitude about suffering that is both simple and saintly in my opinion. Toward the end of a text conversation I was having with her and her husband David, Angela added this comment: “Also, I had knee surgery this morning and am trying to make good use of my suffering. How can we be interceding for you?”
Most people, including myself, would say something like, “Hey, can you please pray for me, I just had knee surgery?” But my friend Angela did the opposite. She didn’t want her suffering to go to waste and rather than first asking me to pray for her recovery, she asked how she could be praying for me. Imagine a world where we all had this attitude. Rather than complaining about our sufferings or turning inward on ourselves during those tough times, we turn outward and unite our sufferings to Christ’s for the healing of others. This is powerful! This is saintly!
During this season of Lent, may we all imitate the attitude of Angela, and in doing so, imitate Christ. Let us not waste our suffering and sacrifices, but intentionally intercede for one another. When the people of God rise up in this fashion the body of Christ is strengthened, and the sufferings of this world are redeemed with purpose and meaning.