When I was growing up and going through some trial, well-meaning Catholics would tell me to “offer it up.” For a very long time, I didn’t understand what benefit that might bring until I learned that my offering something to God was not about what I was doing with it, but what God did.
In recent months I’ve been using this simple prayer throughout my day: “Jesus, I offer this to you.” I pray it when facing some kind of trial or frustration or problem. Nobody likes to go through unpleasant stuff. Yet offering these moments is lot like praying that beloved and familiar short prayer from the Divine Mercy devotion: “Jesus, I trust in you.”
Many Christians pray the Morning Offering – giving the whole day to Christ. That’s a very holy prayer. Yet Jesus also desires our hearts to come to him throughout the day, as St Paul says, “to pray without ceasing (1 Thess 5:17).” Giving over both large and small difficult moments to Christ is one way to fulfill that prayer.
Here are three good reasons to pray with intention: “Jesus, I offer this to you.”
1. What is difficult for me can become a blessing for others.
“Jesus, I offer this to you.” This is much more than Jesus making lemonade from our lemons. Offering up our concerns in much greater than some kind of pious wishful thinking. This is trust that that graces from Christ’s Cross flow even now. Our trial of the moment may remain, but we ask God to use it for good. Through it, graces are unleashed and we participate in Christ’s saving work on earth.
When I suffer something in my own body, I’m painfully away of my own body and blood—the value of my own life and mortality. In some small way I take in the purview of what Jesus suffered for me.
Recently, I prayed as I sat in the oral surgeon’s chair to receive a dental implant — the process that inserts a metal screw inserted into my skull to hold a future porcelain crown. The procedure is a bit jarring. I experienced the disconcerting physical pressure of the drill without the unpleasantness of pain, spared as I was by painkillers. As the dentist drilled into my bone, my little prayer, “Jesus I offer this you” brought about that very image of Jesus’ suffering the nails being driven into his flesh and bones, His being impaled without any anesthesia.
Jesus trusted in His Father to forgive his executioners (Cf. Luke 23:34) and to bring forth something good and holy from his excruciating suffering. Trust and offerings go together.
The key to offering something up to God builds upon the trusting foundation we have in Jesus. His power multiplies our meager offerings turning them into something good. Remember the gospel story of the little boy who offered up his lunch of loaves and fish? I’m sure he could not imagine what was possible when he sacrificed his lunch that day. Yet Jesus multiplied it to feed five thousand people that day. (See John 6: 1-14.)
Jesus is Lord of all. By conquering sin and death, He allows us to offer our own trials – our own redemptive sufferings — for the good of others. When we give our sufferings and mortifications to God, he uses them to bless someone is return.
2. I grow in humility — the primary virtue of sanctity.
What happens “behind the scenes” of our prayer is largely unseen by us. We may never know who God may be blessing through our sufferings, but even that is good for us. It teaches us to live sacrificially for others. It teaches us to give without seeking a reward.
Jesus’ offering on the Cross was given in total humility. The Lord of the Universe became a man who bled and died. To offer up my pains and trials teaches me to live sacrificially. It helps me to be less selfish and self-centered.
One summer, many years back, my older son was the ring bearer for my cousin’s wedding. It was hot sticky day. The church was not air-conditioned. As we waited for the ceremony to begin, my son complained of his long-sleeved tuxedo and sweat pouring down his back. I told him to offer it up for the sake of the bride and groom. But perhaps I forgot to remind him that making an offering is really about making a sacrifice. Fifteen minutes later my son said to me, “I keep giving it up, but nothing’s happening!”
My boy expected his little offering to bring about his comfort and relief. And isn’t that how we often think? We expect God to send relief that is palpable, but we often fail to notice that what God is really doing is giving us the graces to come through the difficulty… to endure… to be faithful no matter what the trial.
“Jesus, I offer this to you” is a willingness to go through something for love of him. This is the stuff of saint-making. For centuries the witness of the saints of the church shows us the wisdom of offering of our pangs and hurts to Jesus.
3. We find we are not alone in our suffering – Jesus is there with us.
A quote from that has stayed with me for years is from French poet and dramatist Paul Claudel: “Jesus did not come to explain away suffering, or to remove it. He came to fill it with His presence.”
Jesus knows us, loves us, sees us. Just as Simon of Cyrene was commissioned to help Jesus carry his Cross, by grace Jesus now becomes our Simon— his merciful presence is found in our cares and concerns. St Peter knew this when he wrote, “Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).”
Look for Jesus in what you suffer. He is there, yet, unseen. He is the friend to the poor, the suffering, the weak, the lonely, the helpless, the sick, and the dying. We are all of those. The prophet Isaiah called Jesus the “suffering servant”. (See Isaiah 53). The New Testament reminds us that “because he himself was tested through what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.” (See Hebrews 2: 5-18.)
It’s normal for all of us to want our suffering to cease. Yet Jesus gives us the grace to bear it when we offer it up. Heavenly aid often comes in the form of hope – the sure knowledge that this is not all there is.
“Jesus, I offer this to you.” This simple prayer steadies us and readies us with the discipline to be disciples, as we learn to unite our will with his will in all our circumstances.
Copyright 2014, Pat Gohn