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Carol Stead wrote:

Hi, guys —

I have recently returned to the Church after many years of attending Protestant churches.

I don't understand the Catholic philosophy of being able to add our suffering to Christ's suffering for redemption and atonement. I am used to hearing that Christ did it, once and for all, and we cannot affect redemption by our efforts.

If we could, we wouldn't need Christ. I don't understand saintly people asking for such things as the wounds of Christ in their own bodies or to suffer greatly on Earth. I can't understand how Christ would want anyone but ourselves to bear our own sufferings.

  • He said, It is finished, so why mortify oneself?


  { Why add our suffering to Christ's suffering or why ask for wounds and suffering, if it is finished? }

Mary Ann replied:

Hi, Carol —

You are correct that we cannot affect redemption by our own efforts however we can affect salvation, of ourselves and others, by helping people to accept the grace of Christ's redemption.

Just as Christ suffered for all of us to achieve our redemption, we can unite our suffering to
His suffering as a prayer to open ourselves, or another, to grace. We are redeemed, but we have to reach out and accept this redemption, and live it out, in order to be saved.

We work out our salvation, as St. Paul said in Philippians 2:12. Christ wanted our lives to be meaningful, not just a waiting game for Heaven. He raised us up to be sons in the Son, and for our lives to be a share in His. Therefore, our sufferings are a share in His, if we accept them and offer them in that spirit. Then God can act through them.

I guess our sacrifice sort of adds to the openness of the world to grace.

  • How is it that we can share these spiritual benefits?

Well, Christ is, all in all, so whatever we have in Christ, we have in common!!

Mary Ann

Eric replied:

Hi, Carol —

The principle of lifting up our sufferings for the sake of someone's good comes from
Colossians 1:24:

24 Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the Church.

Or, Philippians 3:10-14:

10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

As for mortification, the term means putting to death. It comes from a few verses, such as Romans 8:13:

13 [F]or if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

Or, 1 Corinthians 9:24-27:

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?
Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly;
I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27 No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

And, Galatians 5:24-25:

24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.


  • Putting to death.
  • Beating my body.
  • Crucifying the sinful nature.

This is the language of mortification.

The idea is to control our passions, or our disordered desires, by controlling a part we can more easily get a handle on, much like you can steer a ship by controlling its rudder. (See James 3:3-6) This operates under the principle that the passions are all related and, controlling one, affects all.

For example, fasting is the classic example. If you can master control over your urge to eat,
you can thereby gain mastery over things such as anger or lust or what have you. Practice makes perfect.


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