Hey, Father! How can I turn everyday problems into moments of grace?
— Drew in Springfield
Growing up, I played a lot of baseball, and one thing that you would hear a lot, when you got hit by a pitch or took a ground ball off the chin was, “Rub some dirt on it!” It was a way for your teammates to remind you to toughen up and keep playing.
If you grew up Catholic, another phrase you may have heard a lot, maybe from a parent, grandparent or teacher was, “Offer it up.” Don’t want to eat your peas? Offer it up! Having a bad day? Offer it up! A lot of us probably understood this to mean, “Toughen up and keep playing.” Well, not exactly.
The mistake there is that we often think that “offering it up” means we have to endure suffering or things that we don’t like in order to earn God’s love. No way! Being a Catholic is not about earning his love, it’s about allowing God to save us and accepting his love, even when it’s really hard to do.
“Offer it up” is a really profound spiritual principle and a beautiful invitation from the Lord because it allows us to participate in his redemptive suffering, suffering that saves souls. You are not alone when you suffer. You are with Jesus on the cross!
The First Letter of St. Peter says that we should rejoice in our sufferings. St. Faustina said that if the angels could envy us human beings, it would be for two things: the reception of holy Communion and suffering.
That doesn’t mean that we seek out suffering, but it does mean that through our baptism, we are entrusted with the dignity, invitation, and responsibility to look for little ways to make sacrifices for others and to entrust our sufferings to Jesus to unite to his on the cross for the salvation of the world. Whoa!
Offer everything to Jesus in the big ways: Blessed Chiara Badano, a Gen X’er and future saint, was an Italian teenager who was diagnosed with a rare cancer. Before she died, as her hair was falling out, she would hold it up, smiling, and say “For you, Jesus.” Offer everything to him in the little moments as well. If your favorite sports team can’t buy a win, try and be joyful and offer up your frustration to Jesus. If the office runs out of coffee on a Monday morning, happily drink more water for a day and offer it up to Jesus to use for the salvation of a soul who needs it.
This doesn’t totally explain why suffering is present in our lives and in the world, but it lets us know that we aren’t alone when we suffer — and the great responsibility that Jesus entrusts to us to participate in his plan to save souls.
Don’t waste grace. Offer everything up to Jesus!
Father Rob Johnson is pastor at Mother of Perpetual Hope Parish in Maryville, chaplain of the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Newman Center, and associate director for the Office for Vocations for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois.