I thought for Ash Wednesday this year I would reflect on the Catholic Catch Phrase of “offer it up”. I mean… it’s Lent, so we definitely should be “offering it up” more than usual. And don’t we have a duty to help our brothers and sisters in Christ become holy and remind them to offer up their own sufferings and inconveniences to unite them with Christ for the betterment of His kingdom on earth? This logically leads many of us, when our Catholic friends or family have a complaint, to frequently tell them to “offer it up”.
I’m going to be honest though–I very much dislike that phrase, and here’s why…
Christianity is a religion of COMPASSION. After all, as Catholics we spend so much of our time, especially during lent, meditating on the death of the innocent God-Man who suffered, not only with us, but for us. We are told constantly that we we should try to suffer with him in any way that we can, not only to become closer to him, but also for the purgation of sin in the world and in us. By suffering we become holy, right? We also know 1) to take the plank out of our own eye before pointing out the splinter in our neighbors (Matthew 7:5), 2) that we cannot give what we haven’t received (Acts 3:6), and 3) our acts can be efficacious for the holiness of our neighbor. Quite frankly, telling someone to “offer it up” typically comes across as insensitive, uncharitable, and runs the risk of making you sound like a prick. But perhaps that’s just my opinion.
Therefore, I’m proposing a new practice–and since it’s Lent its a perfect time to start doing it. Whenever you are tempted to say to someone “offer it up”, take these three steps instead.
1) Ask them to tell you more–Often times people just need someone to listen. You don’t even have to give advice, just be there for them to listen so they feel as though at least someone cares. This sometimes allows them to give up whatever is burdening them, can take them off-guard and make them realize it may not that big of a deal, and opens up the opportunity for the next two steps.
2) Tell them that you will offer it up FOR THEM–That’s right, we call this “leading by example”. Be Christ-Like and help them carry the burden. Maybe it requires giving up your Venti Mocha for a day as a prayer for whatever they’re going through, but that’s nothing compared to the burden of Christ’s cross.
3) Offer to pray with them–This is much more intimidating than back-handing them with an “offer it up” because it requires YOU to take that extra step to bring them closer to Christ. But hey… if this is too intimidating for you, offer it up and do it anyway ;).
Seriously though, opportunities like this can be excellent moments for evangelization, even when the person you’re with in already a believer. We all need a little reminder and support sometimes. Even if the person is complaining how winter is driving them crazy, how they spilled their coffee this morning, or that McDonalds was out of their favorite happy meal toy–they may seem trivial to us, but why not use that moment as an opportunity to turn that negativity on its head and into a God-moment?