One of the things we say when referring to Jesus, is that we call Him our Redeemer. We do this because Jesus died on the cross to pay the debt that came to be on account of our sin.
“By His death and resurrection, He won us freedom from the bondage that comes about through sin. The Cross of Christ restores us to that original dignity we had before the Fall in the Garden of Eden. Jesus paid that price fully.”
As He hung on the Cross, He said, “It is finished” – referring to the accomplishment of the plan that the Father carried out through Him to save and redeem us.
However, the amazing thing is that in His love for us, God has devised a way for us to participate in the redemptive sacrifice of Christ.
We sometimes hear the expression to ‘offer things up’. Perhaps when we’re having a bad day or we’re ill, we’re told to ‘offer it up’. There is a point to that. When we unite any hardships or sorrows in our lives with Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross, our suffering can have meaning and purpose.
In his letter to the Colossians, St. Paul wrote:
“I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of His Body, that is, the Church” (Col 1:24).
And in this line, we find the meaning and purpose that suffering can have. We are all members of the Body of Christ, with Jesus as its Head. Jesus has in some way united Himself with us, in a way that we who are members of His Body, are offered the possibility of being made partners in His redemptive act (CCC 618).
When St. Paul said that his sufferings completed what was ‘lacking’ in Jesus’ afflictions, that did not mean that there was anything ‘missing’ in Jesus’ sacrificial death. Rather, as Pope St. John Paul II put it, Christ raised human suffering to the level of redemption. Jesus calls us to follow His example and take up our cross, as through any suffering we endure in union with Christ, we can play a role in the redemption of our brothers and sisters, by giving our afflictions a redemptive character. While Christ achieved redemption completely, He did not bring it to a close, but it remains open always to sufferings that any of us may endure out of love for someone else.
In a nutshell, that is what the Church means by redemptive suffering. Even though Jesus accomplished the redemption of humanity completely through His suffering, the redemptive act lives on and develops through His Body, the Church...