Daily Archives: January 7, 2011

How to Offer it Up

I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever actually written out my belief/practice on offering up one’s suffering in an official blog-post type way. I might have forgotten, but it bears repeating, so here goes.

The concept of offering one’s sufferings is one of the best things about Catholicism, in spite of those who, having been taught an abused notion of the concept, consider it “Catholic guilt,” or those who consider it as detracting from Christ’s sacrifice.

There are, as I have said before, two basic ways of looking at the Passion. Some Christians say, “Jesus suffered for me so I don’t have to.” Others of us say “Jesus suffered for me to give me an example.” I like to use the analogy of two heirs: One says, “Dad worked so hard all his life so I didn’t have to; I’d be dishonoring him if I slaved away needlessly.” The other says, “Dad worked so hard to provide me with security that I should work hard to provide my own children with security.”

It is a mistake to think that the Crucifixion is something “in the past.” It is the moment when God “died”. It is, with the Incarnation and Resurrection, one of the key moments when time and eternity intersected. God, who is Eternal, allowed Himself to die. God, who is eternal, and knows and remembers everything, allowed Himself to endure the worst tortures human beings can muster. Given His memory, He basically experiences that Moment always through Eternity.

(I proposed once that this is why God allows possession: so that, through the Rite of Exorcism, He can make the demons experience physical torments they would not otherwise endure).

Christ’s suffering is eternal and infinite, so that is why it can absorb the eternal suffering each of us deserves in Hell.

And so, when we are facing pain, we must remember what He did for us, and how we deserve every bit of pain we get for our most petty sins and our most egregious sins alike.

When I am about to be stuck by a medical needle, for example, I pray, “Dear Jesus, Your hands were pierced by nails, and You didn’t deserve it. I shrink because my hand will be pierced by a mere needle, and I deserve far more. I offer this pain in conjunction with your suffering on the Cross for _____[here I state my intention]”

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1 in 6 Americans live in Poverty

One of the great debates about “poverty level” is the relative standard to a society. A common economic conservative charge, often leveled by me, and valid in some other contexts, is that the “poor” in America (this writer included) have a higher standard of living than most people in the world, that even the poorest Americans cannot compare themselves to those in, say, Haiti or Ethiopia.
Another argument goes that judged in terms of “wealth” or “net worth” or “success,” a “poor” subsistence farmer in a third world country is actually wealther than most Americans, because he owns his own property outright, owns his labor and the product of his labor, and lives within his means. Since even most “wealthy” Americans rely on debt in some way, the zero-debt, owns-his-land and produce farmer has greater net worth, security and success than most millionaires.

A new study redefines the poverty level based upon the expected standard of living in the US. Consider, for example, that in countries like Haiti, most people don’t own cars. Most people walk, or ride in old-fashioned carts, or hitchhike. In Haiti, you show up when you show up (except Mass–you get to Mass on time every morning).

In the US, we expect everyone *on time*, down to the second. The standard is based upon the presumption that everyone should have a car at his or her disposal. The extra time it takes to travel by mass transit or cab or bicycle or whatever is not taken into account.

Similarly, what about getting to work? Our Third World subsistence farmer can walk out of his house and go to work. Most people in his country do the same. In our country, people can work hundreds of miles from where they live.

There are many expectations we make of our citizenry just so they can exist.

So a new standard of measuring poverty doesn’t really change the poverty index so much as adjusting people’s income for the costs of just existing in America. Poverty index is based upon traditional food, shelter and clothing. This new study tries to level things out for the cost of earning a living to begin with.