Offer It Up!
It was not God's plan that suffering and death be a part of the human experience. God made man (man\woman) in His own likeness and image in His deep desire to share with us His own infinite happiness and goodness. He endowed man with special gifts that made us immune from all suffering, and free from the necessity of undergoing death. These gifts however, were not essential to human nature and could be lost.
God endowed man with free-will, in order that man would have to freely choose God above all things in order to be in Paradise (Heaven-in God's presence). But, as we know, it was man’s free will that upset what God had planned, for our first parents rebelled against the restriction placed on their freedom, wishing to decide for themselves what they could or could not do. As a result, not only were they thrown out of Paradise, but they lost for themselves and their descendants those gifts that made them immune from suffering and death.
In order to understand the magnitude of the effects of our first parent's actions, let's look at an example. If you go up to a stranger and strike him with your fist, that would be a bad thing to do. But, if you walked up to your mother and stuck her with your fist...well, that would be a bad thing to do on a MUCH grander scale. So when our first parents disobeyed God directly, because of Whom they offended/disobeyed...it would only be made right by the infinite reparation that divine justice demanded...it could only be repaired by someone much greater than man. Because Jesus was man, he could pay the debt on the part of the human race; and because he was also God, the reparation he offered was infinite.
For this reparation God willed the way of the Passion, the way of suffering.
St. Thomas Aquinas explains why the Passion was necessary: (III, 46,3) (III, 48,1, ad 2)
* The Passion made God’s love for us so much more manifest, suffering so much on our behalf. "You have been bought at a great price" (1 Cor. 6:20). "Greater love than this no man has . . ." (Jn. 15:13). By his passion man is stirred to love God in return, and in this love of God, lies man’s perfection.
* It helps man to realize the enormous evil of sin, when God would go to such length to make reparation for it.
* It helps us to see more clearly the justice of God, Who willed the death of His own Son to repair for sin; and the mercy of God in the way He applies to sinners the merits of Christ's sufferings.
* It gives such a wonderful example of humility and obedience, those indispensable virtues in loving God. Through PRIDE and DISOBEDIENCE Adam refused God the love and homage due Him. Through HUMILITY and OBEDIENCE Christ offered His Father the love and submission due Him.
* It shows clearly the immense love of Jesus for His Father, whom he obeyed "even to the death of the Cross" (Phil. 2:8). When Christ went forth to the Passion, he told the apostles that he did so "that the world may know that I love the Father". (Jn.14:31)
* The Passion of Christ was especially valuable in teaching the necessity of suffering if fallen man (having the use of reason) is to attain his eternal salvation.
By Christ's suffering in his human form, during the Passion by which mankind was redeemed, Christ gave to all suffering a redeeming power, when accepted and offered up in union with His Passion. As Pope John Paul II 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" (Salvifici Doloris).
Jesus willed that the mystery of his Passion continue on in us, so that we may be associated with him in the work of redemption. Think of it...By accepting willingly and without complaint the little inconveniences, irritations, frustrations, delays, setbacks, etc. which God in His Providence allows to come our way, we can pay in part the debt that we, or others, have incurred from our sins. Because God is just, He demands that the debt of suffering be paid, but because He is merciful, He allows one person to "fill up what is lacking" in another member of the Mystical Body which is the Church.
The Cross was the instrument chosen by God for the redemption of mankind. That is why Our Savior (Jesus) refers to the hardships, fatigue, and trials of daily life as the "cross" that we must embrace if we are to be his disciples. Accepting them in union with the passion of Christ gives them a redeeming power, a redeeming value, a share in the fruits of His Passion.
We naturally try to eliminate all forms of suffering from our life, but insofar as they are beyond our power to control, they are part of God’s providence. God foresees them, allows them, and can bring good out of them if we trust in Him. Suffering in some form or other is the lot [destiny/fortune] of every human, saint as well as sinner. However, since our attitude towards our sufferings can make them profitable or unprofitable (even increase our misery), it is important to see them in the light of the Gospel, in the light of God’s providence. That is because suffering can get us down, or it can bring us closer to God. It can make us resentful and bitter - even blaming God for the situation we are in, or it can make us more conscious of God’s providence at work. It can make us turn in on ourselves in self-pity, or it can help us to open out upon the world in apostolic and redemptive action.
Suffering is not something good in itself, this is clear from the great number of Christian institutions (hospitals, sanitariums, etc.) established to alleviate human suffering. While the ills, hardships, and setbacks of life can be instrumental in spiritual growth, in themselves, they are something evil. Christians are not forbidden to seek the comforts of life, enjoy lawful amusements, or to seek remedies from pain. The Church does not glorify suffering for its own sake; but it does glorify God by the loving acceptance of suffering when the fulfillment of His will encompasses it.
Like Christ, we too can pray in certain painful situations, "let this chalice pass from me" as long as we are willing to add "nevertheless, not my will but yours be done" (Lk. 22:42).