So much for going green, I thought.
I’d just parked in front of my house after a long day at the office. The wind had knocked over my neighbor’s recycling bin, strewing pizza boxes and papers across my lawn.
I slammed the car door, marched over to the neighbor’s yard, and grabbed the bin. As I threw the trash back into the container, a gentle command prodded my heart:
Offer it up.
I wondered if my guardian angel had whispered that advice.
“Offer it up?” I silently retorted. “Guardian angel, I’m tired. Couldn’t you just flap your wings and blow away this mess?”
As I snatched a stray candy wrapper from my flower bed, I relented. “Fine,” I muttered. “I offer this up for my neighbor’s son. I know he’s going through a hard time.”
Somehow, the task at hand seemed less annoying. But I wasn’t exactly sure why.
I’d heard the phrase “offer it up” since childhood, and in response, I’d eaten unwanted vegetables, completed algebra assignments and scoured kitchen floors. My tongue was practically scarred from biting back quips when I’d been offended.
Could such mundane gestures have any merit? And if so, how?
“Pick up a pin from a motive of love, and you may thereby convert a soul,” St. Thérèse of Lisieux asserted. “Jesus alone can make our deeds of such worth.”
Known for her “little way” of spirituality, St. Thérèse viewed everyday acts “as a (means) of manifesting her love for God and for others,” writes Father John F. Russell, O.Carm.
St. Thérèse found sacrifice in the simple. “For a long time I had to kneel during meditation near a Sister who could not stop fidgeting,” St. Thérèse recalled in her autobiography, “The Story of a Soul.” “You have no idea how much it annoyed me.”
Rather than “turn around and glare at the culprit,” St. Thérèse chose “to put up with it patiently” and “spent the rest of the time offering it to Jesus.”
St. Paul rejoiced in his many sufferings, which “(completed) what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church” (Colossians 1:24).
But if the dying Christ declared “it is finished” (John 19:30), what more could be accomplished by forbearing with fidgeting or cleaning a messy yard?
“No man can add anything” to the salvation that Christ won for us, St. John Paul II affirmed. However, “in the mystery of the Church as his Body, Christ has … opened his own redemptive suffering to all human suffering” (Salvifici Doloris, 24).
So while we can’t increase the value of the redemption, we can share “in Christ’s sufferings — in any part of the world and at any time in history” (Salvifici Doloris, 24). In so doing, we extend the reach of the victory that Christ won for us.
Uniting our pain with Christ’s passion dispels “the sense of the uselessness of suffering,” St. John Paul II observed. “It is suffering, more than anything else, which clears the way for the grace which transforms human souls” (Salvifici Doloris, 27).
When we offer up a burden — from an irritation to an agony — we provide “a special support for the powers of good” (Salvifici Doloris, 27).
Just as we recycle discarded items to make new products, we can give our trials to Christ, who refashions them into his “infinite treasure of the world’s redemption” (Salvifici Doloris, 27).
So much for going green after all.
Gina Christian is a writer in Philadelphia and a member of St. William Parish.