I keep hearing Catholics say 'to offer up your suffering', or 'unite your suffering with Jesus on the cross'. Would you explain what that means and why you would do that?
Fr. Francis' answer:
Let’s begin with the Cross. Here is where we learn the lesson of sacrifice and offering.
Jesus came among us. Jesus is God joining Himself to humanity. He became one of us to inseparably join His Divinity with our humanity, to live our life and to suffer our sufferings. He did so in order that we, in our humanity, may also be one with His Divinity.
He did so also to take away our sin and death and separation from God — the consequences of our rebellion against God, so that we may go free without paying for the just cost of our transgression.
The Father had a plan. We don’t quite understand this plan. But the plan is: Jesus is to take on all our sufferings onto the Cross, and He will offer all these meaningless sufferings as a freely offered sacrifice to the Father, and the Father in exchange will grant salvation and forgiveness to the whole world, to everyone, to each of us.
Jesus’ dying on the Cross, therefore, reveals the secret of God’s mercy. We all suffer, and suffering is not from God and so is meaningless in itself. But for the suffering that we cannot avoid, He shows us that we can make it into a sacrifice, a useful offering to God; and mysteriously, God can use it to save souls.