Help interpreting a prayer in a Catholic light


I’m a little confused by one of the psalm prayers in the Liturgy of the Hours tonight following psalm 116.

Maybe someone can help me understand what it means because as it’s written by the bishops afaik it must not mean what it means to me:

Father, precious in your sight is the death of the saints, but precious above all is the love with which Christ suffered to redeem us. In this life we fill up in our own flesh what is still lacking in the sufferings of Christ; accept this as our sacrifice of praise, and we shall even now taste the joy of the new Jerusalem.

I thought the merits of Christ are infinite. We can’t add to the sacrifice on the cross etc etc. What exactly is meant here? So how can the sacrifice be lacking?


Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for his body, which is the church: Colossians 1:24
The language kind of resembles this verse.


Ok … but what is meant? Surely he doesn’t mean we’re not saved until we suffer enough to make up for what fell short in Christ’s suffering.


I think it is more of a sacrifice made out of love and thanksgiving. There isn’t a mention of being saved, but rather that suffering these pains out of love makes them a foretaste of Heaven.


He joins Himself to our suffering and makes our suffering His. When He does this our Suffering becomes redemptive. Not that His lacked power but experience particular to our life.


I feel like my main concern of why it’s ok to say Christ’s suffering was insufficient is not being addressed. Can anyone speak to that?


Take your cue from St Paul.

The only thing lacking in the sufferings of Christ is our participation. The joining of our own suffering with his.

Note that Paul nowhere uses the word “insufficient. “ he uses the word “lacking. “ it is lacking not in value or merit but in its being properly witnessed to in the word by Christians who do not bear them out of love for God.


Yes, it’s definitely a reference to St. Paul. :slight_smile: There’s been a lot written about how to interpret that verse. Here’s one good perspective.

Of course, God doesn’t need our sufferings any more than he needs our money. He’s complete and overflows with life. The universe was not made out of need, but out of gift. Our sufferings are therefore part of the gift he makes to us, weird as that sounds. As to “lack”, the term doesn’t refer to God lacking anything, nor to some inadequacy on Christ’s part but to our lack. For instance, God is the giver of all things and intends us to have all we need. Yet, in this world, people experience lack everyday. Why? In no small part because we (who are entrusted with the task of distributing what is needed for the common good) don’t supply the lack. So people starve or go thirsty. Is that because there is a lack on the part of the author of Being? No.

In the same way, Christ’s sacrifice is sufficient. But since he has made us participants in that sacrifice, our acts of sacrifice matter too. Had the apostles failed to proclaim the gospel, we would not have heard about it. We would lack. If somebody had not told me about Jesus, I would lack. If I don’t make the sacrifice of time to (for instance) reply to your note, you don’t get an answer to your question. You lack, not because Christ is insufficient, but because I don’t discharge my duty of trying to help. I don’t “offer my body a living sacrifice”, you therefore don’t receive the benefits of Christ’s sacrifice in the form of a letter from a brother in Christ who might have helped, but didn’t. You lack, not because of Jesus’ inadequacy, but because of mine.

I’m hoping that makes sense. The bottom line is: Christ mediates his grace to us through creatures, especially other people. We have nothing to offer God by ourselves. Even our ability to say yes is a gift of grace. But God has so willed that we can indeed make that offering—or not. When we do, it is joined to Christ’s offering and becomes part of the gift he makes of himself to the Church. The same is true of the mysterious sufferings of those who, seemingly, have nothing to offer but suffering. From a practical and utilitarian viewpoint, a bedridden victim of some disease appears to have “nothing to offer”. But then, so did Jesus when he hung on the cross and, to utilitarian eyes, accomplished nothing useful for six hours. In fact, of course, he accomplished the redemption of the world. A suffering soul likewise can join his or her sufferings to Jesus and, in his mysterious exchange of love, do great and wonderful things for others.


Very well put. And I think when we go to Mass, perhaps we focus more on the sacrifice of Christ and less our participation in our daily lives.


St Pope John Paul II provides us with this beautiful teaching:


Christ identifies with his followers. When Saul was persecuting his followers, Christ said, “Saul, Saul , why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4) The sufferings of Christ include both his own personal sufferings, which redeemed us, and what is still lacking in the sufferings of Christ, namely, the sufferings of his followers, which will help them grow in virtue and holiness in this world, earn them heavenly treasure, and help them obtain graces for others.


It’s not that Christ’s sufferings are finite, but that God allows opportunities for us to unite ourselves to Christ. Certainly are transformation isn’t complete at Baptism, or are we immediately glorified and completely detaches from sin? There are still opportunities to complete our transformation to holiness through our own sufferings and merits (made possible by Christ).


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