Hebrews 7:26-27 For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, blameless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he has no need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for those of the people; this he did once for all when he offered himself.
Colossians 1:24 I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.
The two scripture passages above—both written by St. Paul—on the surface seem contradictory. Most protestant denominations gloss over the second and don’t really have a theology of suffering. But the Catholic understanding of almost everything in the deposit of faith is not that these two passages are contradictory, but rather that both are true and must be understood together.
The Catechism teaches us that as baptized members of the mystical Body of Christ we are conferred with the offices of Priest, Prophet, and King. The priestly office of the laity, of course, differs from the ordained priesthood. As laity, we can’t bless in the same way, but we can still, for example, “bless those who curse us”, or say “God bless you!” We can’t consecrate the bread and wine, but we can consecrate ourselves to the Sacred Heart, or to Mary as St. Louis-Marie de Montfort taught us. We can’t offer the sacrifice of the Body and Blood in the same way, but we can link our sufferings to those of Christ, thereby participating in a mystical way in that perfect, one-time sacrifice.
The question remains, though, what could possibly be lacking in Christ’s sufferings? God does not need our participation in Christ’s redeeming act, but he WANTS it. In fact, what he really wants is the sacrifice of the human will which is at the crux of the whole plan of salvation. Adam and Eve lost paradise because of their disobedience. The obedience of Christ “unto death, death on a cross” led by his intention: “Not my will, but Thine be done” was a pointed and direct remedy for the sin of Adam and Eve whose disobedience was preceded with an attitude of, “Not Thy will but mine be done.” Christ’s submission to the Divine Will is what is what opened up the gate of paradise for all of us. That is not just Good News for us, it is Amazing News!
However, the human will dies hard. Perhaps what is lacking since the crucifixion, is total human participation in the plan of redemption. As penitents, we make up what is lacking by acting “in proxy” for the “un-willing”. What is lacking is the desire for salvation in many of the souls Christ died to save. He wants to save all souls but many are rejecting his sacrifice. By our baptismal priesthood, we are called to participate in their salvation by offering prayers and sacrifices on their behalf.
What must we do to exercise our priestly office? The Catechism is eloquent in its description of this office:
“For all their works, prayers, and apostolic undertakings, family and married life, daily work, relaxation of mind and body, if they are accomplished in the Spirit – indeed even the hardships of life if patiently born – all these become spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. In the celebration of the Eucharist these may most fittingly be offered to the Father along with the body of the Lord. And so, worshipping everywhere by their holy actions, the laity consecrate the world itself to God, everywhere offering worship by the holiness of their lives.” (CCC 901)
Our participation in the priestly office of Christ is what sanctifies and gives meaning to every act of our lives. We understand that the sanctification of our daily lives flows from our offering these acts to God in the Spirit, and in uniting these acts to the sacrifice of Christ in the Eucharist.
The sin of the world demands that reparation be made. If we relied on our merit alone, our sacrifices would be as ineffectual as the Old Testament offerings of rams, cattle and turtledoves. But our meager offerings, linked to the Cross and offered in the Spirit, give us great hope that God will use them for the salvation of the world. In this way we are able to fulfill the exhortation of Pope Benedict XVI in his document “Spe Salvi”:
“As Christians we should never limit ourselves to asking: How can I save myself? We should also ask: What can I do in order that others may be saved?”
Jelena Vasilj, one of the alleged locutionists of Medjugorje was asked: “What does the Blessed Mother say about family life where only one member prays, fasts, and sacrifices?” She replied: “One is enough. The lost family is one where no one prays, no one fasts, and no one sacrifices. The more members of a family who pray, fast, and sacrifice, the more peace and happiness the family experiences.”
I am certain that our merciful Lord would allow us to spiritually adopt families in which no one prays. At least we can ask, trusting in his merciful love. In the Divine Will all good things are possible, and if we desire their salvation we can be certain that he desires it infinitely more!
Let us pray for the grace to do whatever it takes to save the souls Our Lord loves so dearly, making up for what is lacking in the perfect sufferings of Christ. May His kingdom come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Maranatha!
If you wish to be inspired by the life of a victim soul, I invite you to watch a video on the life of Blessed Alexandrina Da Costa on YouTube at https://tinyurl.com/y98quaua.