On Redemptive Suffering

Christina Chase

A friend told me fairly recently that she thinks of me when she reads Colossians 1:24.

Yes, I admit, I had to look it up…

“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church…”.

Ah, yes, I am familiar with this one, as well as its association with redemptive suffering.  But… I can’t say that I understand it.  Because I don’t.  I don’t really get the concept of redemptive suffering… but, I am trying.

My mother is a lifelong Catholic and, so, I do know about “offering it up”.  That is, she has told me to simply offer up my day and all of my pains and sufferings to God, suggesting to do this with a simple prayer first thing in the morning.  Okay.  I didn’t do that when I was younger, but, after my long spiritual journey and upon rediscovering Christ (perhaps, more accurately, upon discovering him for the first time) I wanted to give it a go.  And I have been.  But… I still don’t get it.

What Is Lacking in Christ?

Sometime during this year’s adventure in health, I thought again about this enigmatic phrase from Sacred Scripture, “in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ,” and a new thought was given to me.  Well, a new angle or perspective…


Jesus took on the sufferings of humankind with his sacrifice upon the Cross.  He was fully united with us in our pain, suffering with us.  But (and please forgive me if this sounds sacrilegious, I do not mean it to be, and if I am speaking incorrectly of Church teaching, please correct me) Jesus was one human, with one human body.  He could not, in his one human lifetime, suffer every suffering that is known to humankind.

There are billions of ways to suffer in this life.  Jesus suffered his particular suffering and, being fully divine as well as fully human, in his particular suffering he took on all of suffering – but… he did not himself physically suffer leprosy, or lifelong disability, or cancer, or, of course, menstrual pains and the pain of childbirth.  We do that as individuals.  However (and this is a big however) when we offer these trials and sufferings of ours up to God, when we seek to suffer them in union with Jesus on the Cross, then Jesus was and is able (the Mystery of the Eternal Now) to suffer them himself up there, once and for all, for the Salvation of the World.

Why Am I “Offering It up”?

Does this make any sense?  Well, not completely, but that’s partly because it’s a Mystery.  There are some things in this life that we can never understand because we are limited.  Jesus asks us to offer our sufferings up to him so that he may unite them with his Sacrifice on the Cross for redemption.  He suffers everything with us and for us when we turn to him in our sorrows and needs and, thus, saves humankind.

So, I have come a tiny bit closer to understanding “offering it up” and the reason that my friend thinks of me when hearing St. Paul’s words.  It is, after all, quite obvious, upon looking at me, that I suffer in my body.  And also rather obvious, upon knowing me, that I rejoice in being alive – if not exactly in my sufferings.  (I’m definitely not a saint yet!)

I don’t know what sufferings await me in the future – of course, no one does – but mine were feeling palpably close and real when I came to this understanding.  When I was thinking about offering it up during my cancer scare, Carrie Underwood’s song would come into my head: “Jesus, Take the Wheel.”  I don’t really know the words of the song or what it is about, but the sentiment of wanting God to take control and take over – because I know that I can’t do it on my own – I get… And I’m hoping that this is part of “offering it up”, too….  Yes.  It is.  For I am not alone.  None of us are.  And it’s good to know that.

Why Redemption through Suffering?

All of this does beg the question, however – “Why redemption through suffering?”  What is so good about pain that it has eternal benefit?  I’m sure there are many theologians that have tackled this question, but I’m just going to answer with this:

Why are lush, green islands dependent upon volcanic eruptions?  Why do the bodies of furry creatures need to decompose upon the forest floor and, thus, feed the forest?  Why rain?  Why childbirth to bring new life?

This is life, this is how this life works.  I don’t know precisely why because I didn’t create it.  But, I do trust the Creator and I am willing (God, help me) to live fully and love deeply this terribly beautiful life that He has given to me.  There are people who are suffering so much worse than I am, so much worse than I ever can.  My heart goes out to them… Can you imagine how much more so with Jesus?  His heart not only goes out to me, it is beating for me, it is being pierced for me.  For you.  I am not alone.  You are not alone.

May I truly offer my sufferings up to Christ for the Glory of God, for the Kingdom and the Salvation of Souls.

So mysterious… So fleeting this life… So lovely….  Please help us, our Lord and God…

© 2017 Christina Chase

Photo credits:

  1. At the Altar, © 2017 Dan Chase
  2. Aaron Burden, free to use through Unsplash.com

Who God Loves More

Because of my physical disability and suffering, some have strongly suggested to me that God loves me more than other people.

Yeah, I don’t think so.

I’m a sinner just like you.

And even though there was a time when I rolled my eyes at anyone who said “God loves you”, this post is precisely about God’s love – for me, for you, for everybody. It is a re-presentation of the gift that was given to me (through inspiration) a couple of years ago during Lent. I had wondered for years how God could love everyone and, yet, not everyone would be saved. Did Christianity actually teach that there were some people that God loved more than others? Short answer: no. Long answer… well, read on…

Why God Loves Anyone At All

We may think that God loves us because we have professed belief in His Son, Our Lord, Jesus Christ and/or because we do good things that are kind to others. But, that’s not why God loves us. God doesn’t love me because I smile despite being physically disabled and in a wheelchair. God doesn’t love you because you praise His Holy Name from a pulpit or in a blog. God doesn’t love them because they are poor and simple or them because they are successful and generous. Nope.

God loves each and every human being because God loves each and every human being. God loves because that’s what God does, because that is exactly who God is.

We have done nothing, and can do nothing, to deserve or merit God’s love – because God has already done it for us. We are lovable precisely because God independently chooses to bring us into being through His Own Creative Love. God loved us enough to take on our humanity and die for us through Christ our Lord. It is for this reason that no human being is worthless. For this sacred reason – and for this sacred reason alone – every human being is valuable, is precious.

We should never think of ourselves as any greater than this. And we should never think of ourselves as any less than this, not even when we sin.

Loved by God Is Who We Are

You know that person who really hurt you and doesn’t even seem to realize how badly, even though you tried to explain it to her? God loves that person intimately and infinitely. You know that person who is always so arrogant and says such cruel things about other people? God loves that person intimately and infinitely. God takes no joy in their sins – God takes no joy in our sins – but He eternally loves sinners. That means that God eternally loves us, each and every human being no matter what we do – no matter how badly we screw up His Commandments or how well we keep them.

Why, then, do we believe that some people go straight to heaven and others do not? What makes the difference of whether or not we will be holy lies in how we answer one question. It is a question we must each ask of ourselves:

Will I allow God to love me?

Maybe you thought that I was going to write that the question is whether or not we will choose to love God. I thought about it. But, then I wordlessly remembered in my heart (or the wordless memory was pushed forward for me) that we love because God first loved us[1]. The only reason that we can love anyone or anything at all is because God loves us. So, even if I want to love God, I must first let God love me.

Letting God Love

What does that mean?

It means that I have to acknowledge and accept who I am – who I truly, honestly, and eternally am: made with and for Love, loved intimately and infinitely by God. Then I can let God forgive me, heal me of my wounds, comfort me in my sufferings, and guide me in my decisions – knowing that God will always lead me to the best place.

Letting God love means that I must acknowledge and accept that every human being is also intimately and infinitely loved by God. And I must ask myself if I love others as God loves them. Do I treat my fellow human beings as sacred and beloved? Do I open up my heart and allow God to love my fellow human beings through me, through my words and actions?

Love cannot be bottled up and kept to myself or it will becomes stagnant. Love must flow.

Countless times I have allowed my annoyances, fears, anger, habits, and self-centered desires to lead me to say “No” to God’s Love. In so doing, I turned away from my own identity. I put up a barrier. I refused to give myself to the flow of love… to forgive, to heal, to strengthen, to comfort, to honor. I miss the mark, I sin.

That is why life can be ultimately dissatisfying. That is why, during the 40 days of the Lenten season, we, who acknowledge our unlove, are mournfully repentant, longing for forgiveness and newness of life. Forgiveness and Newness of Life are precisely what God wants to give to us through His Love – precisely what Christ brings to us through his Passion and Resurrection.

God wants us to be restored to our true selves. The Holy Days of Lent and Easter are a gift from God to help us remember, anew, that we are all divinely loved.

So, let us each ask ourselves:

Will I let God love?

I am only human, and, as such, I can only do so much. But, God can do everything. Will I let Him? Because the thing is… God loves me enough never to force me.

© 2016 Christina Chase

[1] 1 John 4:19


“Remember that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return.”


photo credit: MTSOfan at Flickr

This flesh, this body of mine, is mortal. It cannot last. Nobody can. Everything living on earth will die someday. Must die.

And, yes, it’s sad.

Our earthly lives are temporary. All the good things that we know… the taste of ice cream, the smell of roses, the sound of music, the feel of sunlight, warm on the skin… the sight of a loved one’s face… the embrace of our parents, the smiles of friends, the laughter of children… all are temporary. All taking shape and form from out of the dust – and all returning to the dust, inevitably.

It is mournful, sorrowful, but… it’s life. The ebb and flow of the tides, the spinning of the planet, the spinning of the years of our lives so quickly, relentlessly. We want to hold on, hold still, keep life as it is, no aging, no dying. But we can’t. We must truly live.

Flowers, and mosses, and trees do not seem to bemoan the shortness of life. They do not become sad or sullen, remorseful or angry with the dropping of petals or browning of green. Cats do not brood over skulls and worms are not anxious about their impending demise. Grumpy though felines may look at times and wriggling as worms can be, flora and fauna do not think about how often they think about death. They do not distract themselves from the very concept of mortality or make elaborate plans in a futile attempt to stave off fatality.

We do that. Humans do that.

We think and we feel and we think about our feelings. We seem to either obsess too much about death or else make ourselves forget about it entirely. Of course, we can never forget about it entirely because death is always there: the bouquet of flowers on the table, the rotting lettuce in the refrigerator, the funeral procession on the highway, the phone call with the shocking news…

Every life ends in death.

And yet…

Beyond Death – True Life

Not natural only are we, like the other creatures of earth, but also supernatural, transcending the limits of the material, of time and of space. Here and now, we live in the wonder and beauty of our natural home, but we must remember that this home is temporary, finite. All forms and shapes return to the stardust from which they came and our souls, which are spiritual, return to the source from which they came. We came from a state of eternal love and to that eternal state we are called to return. The animating principle of our lives, our souls, are of God.[1]

Truthfully, we are always with God and God with us – we are always in God’s love. But, we separate ourselves from this truth when we sin, when we choose to be other than what God created us to be. When we choose not to be God-centered, living in and tending to the goodness of God’s Creation in love, but rather, self-centered, using God’s gifts for our own finite pleasures at the exclusion of others, we sin. We do not truly live when we choose greed over generosity, pride over humility, resentment over forgiveness, for then we do not choose love, we do not choose God. We choose the fleeting selfish feelings of the flesh, the finite and not the infinite. These are our sins. If we truly love, then we repent. If we truly love, then we are most truly sorrowful and mournful for our sins, the daily deaths of love.

And we will remember…

“You are dust and unto dust you shall return”…

Why did millions of people across the world mark their heads with ashes last Wednesday with these words spoken over them, spoken right to them? Why will they, and I, now strive to spend 40 days in penance and sacrifice? Why… except to remember….

We must remember that we are dust so that we do not forget what brought us to life. What sent that spark of life to live in a tiny cell that would multiply and grow, forming and shaping our bodies, our human lives here on earth? What gave us, not only brains, but also minds, to not only think, but to also think about thinking? What created the sun and the moon, the mosses and the butterflies, the cats and the fish and the beauty of earth? Who gave us these and the gifts of music and familial love? Who gives us human hearts so that we may love and be loved eternally?

Our bodies are sacred and made to choose good, to choose God. But, from the beginning, we have gone against the sanctity of our bodies and not chosen God – this is Original Sin and it means that we live in the separation of our own making. With the reminder in ashes imposed upon us, we are recalling the Fall of humankind, the great divorce that brought with it this inherited consequence: “In the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, since out of it you were taken; for dust you are and unto dust you shall return”[2].

Is this our end, then, the dust of the ground? No. Because God truly loves us, He does not want us forever separated from Him. God wills to save us and sends us a Redeemer – His Son, God-Incarnate, Our Lord, Jesus Christ. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”[3]

Christ will save us from the ashes. But, first, we must remember the ashes. We must remember that we are dust and unto dust we shall return – but for the Salvation of God.

© 2016 Christina Chase

[1] Genesis 2:7

[2] Gen 3:17-19

[3] John 3:16

Not Just Anyone Can Truly Serve the Poor

This is addressed to the true believing Christians out there who make daily and tremendous sacrifices to bring Christ to others.  It is especially to those among these ministers (lay ministers and those who are ordained) who see people who do not believe in God helping the poor and feeding the hungry and wonder….  Catholic teaching understands that Salvation is not automatically denied to people who do not profess belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior – if a goodhearted person is living every day seeking and serving love and justice, doing those things that Christ tells us to do, then Salvation is open to that person.  This can lead some to wonder what’s the point of spending time in worship and devoting oneself to religious doctrines and practices – and the many sacrifices that Catholic Christians are called to make in the name of Jesus – if any non-Christian who does truly good works can get to Heaven.

To you who are feeling doubt I say, in the words of our Lord, “Be not afraid!”  I do believe that as long as we lovingly serve the poor, we will be saved.  We should ask ourselves, however, “What is service of the poor?”  Yes, there are people who do good things, acts of charity, who don’t believe in God. They are giving the poor a service, a very important service: food, clothing, shelter, work, a kind word, patient attention, a friend to call on for any of these things – but are they raising the soul of the poor person to God? By doing good works, people are uniting themselves with Christ, knowingly or unwittingly, because Christ is the source of all Goodness.  But – are they uniting the poor people that they serve with Christ?

We must love one another with our whole selves, as Jesus loves us.  We cannot be like those at the end of time who go to Jesus and say “Lord,  Lord,” and he replies to them  “I never knew you.”  Infinitely better for him to say to us, “I was hungry and you fed me,  I was thirsty and you gave me drink…  Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

In truly loving one another with our whole selves, as Jesus loves us, we can, through our faith, mercy, and love, unite others  with Christ.  This is not something that any nonbeliever can do.  So, to those of you ministers and good Christians who are struggling, I say…

Who is peering into the depths of a homeless teenager’s soul to tell her, to show her, that God her Creator loves her beyond compare and suffers with her every moment in order to bring her deep, peaceful joy that never ends? Who will do that? The answer is you. Only one who deeply loves God, who “spends time in worship,” who has an intimate, daily, conscious relationship with Christ our Savior can fully know, love and serve God – and only that person can give to the poor what the world cannot give. Only you.

Descended to the Dead


Have you ever submerged yourself under water, like a lake or a pool, and gone down, down, down? The light, if visible, is far-off and distorted, while all around you, enshrouding you, is a seductive, numbing kind of darkness. There’s an oblivious kind of quiet down there and you would stay below. But, within you is the instinct to rise.

You are made to rise – from the pool, the grudge, the self-pity, the addiction…. You are made to rise up, to see clearly, to breathe freely – you are made for the Light.

But, what if your ability to rise is deadened by self-abuse – by sin? Then, all that is good within you will drown. And your soul will die. It is for this reason that Jesus sacrificed himself on the Cross – he descended to the dead so that he may always be with you, so that he may always be with you even in the deepest, darkest abyss. Christ Jesus is there and stretches out his hand, and parts the drowning waters. You need only to reach out for his mercy and he will take hold of you – and raise you up to the land of the living, to the Light.

© 2015 Christina Chase

This concludes a trio of short reflections for the Paschal Triduum: Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. Blessed and Joyous Easter, everyone!

His Heart Was Pierced

When the Roman soldier drove a lance up into the side of Christ’s body on the Cross, blood and water poured forth from His pierced heart. At that same moment, the earth itself trembled and the very rocks split. The veil in the Holy of Holies was torn asunder, exposing the most sacred of sacred places to the outside world. We are even told that graves opened up and the holy people who had been buried there rose, living again. When some of the soldiers saw how Christ died, feeling the very ground quaking beneath them, they exclaimed, their eyes open wide, “Truly, this was the Son of God!”

This is how God Incarnate brings Redemption and Salvation. His Sacred Heart is made accessible and He pours His love and mercy out upon us – and all Creation is shaken up, forever changed. Now is torn away the veil between human and divine, between the dead and the living – between doubt and faith.

… But not all will choose to enter the opened way….

© 2015 Christina Chase

(See Matthew 27:51-52 and John 19:34, 37)

God for Us (Reason and Faith)

We are but dust in the vast cosmos…

I ask in advance if any of this post is bizarre or unsettling to anyy of my fellow devout Christians. Please remember that I was once an atheist (not the angry, zealous kind) and that I am still often haunted by the ghosts of my past denial. Having always marveled at the wonders of nature, I’m drawn toward cosmology and all scientific inquiry into life and matter, enjoying television programs like Nova and Cosmos. But… I don’t always enjoy them. Sometimes, listening to a scientific reduction of the facts of life, my doubting ghosts waft over me again and they, like the wraiths in Harry Potter, try to suck my soul, my faith, right out of me. Ever grateful am I that God’s grace has allowed my light of faith to grow more strongly over the years so that I may send these ghosts, these wraiths, howling away to the dark ignorance from whence they came. What follows was born from one of these moments …

When contemplating the vast stretches of the universe, it is clear that we are a speck of dust in the cosmos. Who knows how many universes existed before ours and how many will be after – or how many universes exist right now? And yet, we open our paper Bibles and read that “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…”[i] and that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”[ii] Do we really think that we are so special to the Uncreated Creator of all things visible and invisible? It stands to reason that if, as we believe, the Eternal Source is personal, then God cares and will care about all universes and worlds created and the lives of other lifeforms there. There may be other intelligent beings in unimaginable forms somewhere beyond the knowable universe to whom God sends divine mission with divine purpose. I don’t know. Do you?

What I do know, by the light of faith, is that Jesus the Christ is and always will be God for us. I don’t mean “for us” in any kind of a relativistic way, like that’s who we take him to be, because what’s God for us may not be God for you. No. I mean that, in Jesus, God gave Himself completely to us, for our sakes. For us, for our ultimate fulfillment and joy, the Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us. The Word of God may salvifically take on some other kind of form in some other universe of unfathomable structure – I don’t know, do you? But, Jesus is ours.

To be a true believer in God, we do not need to believe that we are the only creatures ever made, or who will ever be made, in the divine image and likeness. To be good Christians, we do not need to believe that God’s plan of salvation for these other beloved creatures would have to include a mission from Jesus. There is and always will be only one Christ Jesus – for he is both fully divine and fully human. It is with this divinely revealed truth of Jesus of Nazareth’s identity that, through the light of faith, we can make the reasonable conclusion that Jesus won’t be saving anyone else in any other universe. No hard-core scientist would believe that intelligent lifeforms elsewhere in existence would be human (I’m excluding theories of parallel universes here, because I think that they’re just clever nonsense). Human beings, Science-Only scientists understand, are products of this particular planet that we know as earth. Believers, too, understand that God created humans from the earth (the meaning of “Adam”) to dwell in the abundance and beauty that God created here. We are human. And, for us, God assumed human nature.

For us men and for our salvation,”

the Son of God (who has absolutely no material shape or form)

“came down from heaven,

and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary,

and became man.

For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate,

he suffered death and was buried,

and rose again on the third day

in accordance with the Scriptures.

He ascended into heaven

and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

He will come again in glory

to judge the living and the dead

and his kingdom will have no end.”[iii]

Yes, every Christian would agree that Jesus Christ is universally unique. But, I am trying to come at this from the perspective, not only of a Christian, but also of a mere theist who is cosmologically minded, one who believes in “the ultimate reality that everyone calls God”[iv] and wonders about the relationships of other possible universes to God, who is the Unmoved Mover. How has God revealed Godself to other created minds in unknown worlds – if other such creatures and worlds exist? I don’t have the answer and I don’t think anyone ever will. And I also don’t think that we ever, even remotely, need to know. What we can come to know – and what we need to know for our ultimate fulfillment as human beings – is how God reveals Godself to us.

We can come to understand and experience the relationship between our world and God, discovering the intimate and loving plan that God has for us, for each and every human being. How? By turning to the one who is fully God and fully Man; by loving and following the Son of God, who lovingly assumed our human nature and became one of us, living and breathing with a Sacred Heart. Through him, we can touch the starry face of God and know the embrace beyond time and space.

Now, when I look up at the dewy night sky and contemplate the trillions of stars and billions of galaxies beyond sight, I thank God ever more richly for giving Himself completely to me in and through, the one and only, Jesus Christ. The next time that you wonder why we humans think that we are so special, or even doubt the existence of God when hearing scientists talk about the multiverse, remember that the Infinite/Eternal One, the Source of All Life, became one of us in Christ, out of infinite and eternal love. Christ Jesus is the singularly perfect intimate union of human and divine.


©Christina Chase 2014

All Rights Reserved




[i] Genesis 1:1

[ii] John 3:16

[iii] Nicene Creed

[iv] St. Thomas Aquinas

The Human LORD

If you knew you were going to die, what would you do on your last day?

The liturgy of Holy Thursday begins the holiest part of Holy Week, the Easter Triduum. On this day, we commemorate the Last Supper and also the institution of the Priesthood – and we could just pass over it (no pun intended) as something only religious people care about. But, Jesus is not just a “religious” figure. Being fully human, he had family and friends, personality and appetites. He worked for a living and his muscles got sore as he built things with his own hands. There were people whose company he enjoyed particularly – and foods and times of day and songs and stories that he liked particularly, as well. And then came the day when he knew it was all going to end.

What would you do on your last day on earth?

Being also fully divine, Jesus knew he was going to be killed in a cruel and horribly agonizing way. On the evening before his death, he gathered with his friends and shared a meal with them – his last meal. When he broke the bread and passed the cup of wine, he told them that it was his body and blood given up and poured forth for salvation, and that they were to eat and drink of his body and blood in continuing re-presentation, or remembrance. And his friends were confused and perplexed. After supper, he, whom they called Master, tenderly washed their feet – and they didn’t really know why, although he tried to explain that he was leaving them an example of service and love. All evening, he shared his hopes with his friends, gave them words of advice and encouragement, all the while knowing that they had no idea what he was about to go through. Even when he tried to tell them, they didn’t get it.

Jesus knew he would have to go through the pending ordeal and horror of arrest, torture, and crucifixion without his loved ones’ understanding or support. But… he was willing to go through it anyway for their sake – even for the sake of the friend who would betray him, even for the very people who would seize, torture, and kill him. Despite it being difficult for his loved ones to grasp, Jesus knew that the immensity of his pain and suffering was for their good, for the good of every human being on his beloved earth. Yet, he, very human, was in dread of going through it.

Later that night, Jesus, agonizing, sweat tears of blood, alone. But, he did not run away.

What would you do? (What would I do…?)

Christina Chase