Amy Welborn has a lovely post up today on the value of "offering it up." She's focusing on the experience of being on the receiving end, to hear that others are praying or working or sacrificing for you, and she invites reflections in her comment box.
In one sense, I think that one of the many joys of parenthood is that we find out what it's like to have someone, someone small and helpless and dependent, turn to us with a bright, beaming smile and say, "I did this for you!" Whether the action is something we find amazing and helpful, like discovering that a small child has, unbidden, picked up all of his toys, or whether the action is less amazing and less helpful, such as discovering that a small child has taken the dish washing sponge and used it to wash a section of the kitchen floor, we can't help but feel a certain amount of joy just at their desire to help, when they are so little, and can do so little.
And this joy is even more palpable when they do something, not to please Mom or Dad, but to please a sibling. We are, sadly, as parents, used to hearing them squawk and squabble at each other, so finding out that an older sister has decided to make her little brother's bed, simply as an act of charity, is a sweet and precious delight to a parent's heart.
God doesn't need us to offer things up for each other. He can do everything, without our help. In many ways, our clumsy, well-meaning actions are like those of the child who accidentally empties a dishwasher full of dirty dishes--we leave Him with more work to do, when all is said and done. But I think, loving Father that He is, that He delights in our efforts to grasp the corner of our neighbors' crosses, not because our help is efficacious on its own, but because He sees that we are trying, however clumsily or weakly or misguidedly, to be like Him.
And because we are pleasing Him, we somehow find that our own crosses have gotten a little lighter; that as we reach out to help those around us, to shoulder some of their burdens and pray for some of their trials and listen to some of their fears and calm some of their worries and wipe away some of their tears, He is pouring out His grace upon the neighbor we our helping and on us, in a measure out of all proportion to our efforts.
When we appear in prayer before God, hampered by our own smallness and weakness and sinfulness, yet presenting to Him the faded dandelions of our prayers and sacrifices and asking Him to help someone else, someone in need, I think He smiles as much as any parent being presented with a similar backyard bouquet and a simultaneous selfless request for a cookie for a baby sister. If we, who are flawed human parents, would meet such a request with a tray of cookies and juice for every child in the backyard, how much more so does He shower us with graces, because we take the time to ask for help for someone else.
All of this, of course, reminds me not only to continue praying for Michael Dubruiel and his whole family, but it also reminds me that I had formed the intention to order some of Michael's books before the end of February, taking advantage of OSV's generous decision to double Michael's portion of the books' proceeds which go to the children's college fund. Like many good intentions, mine ended up on the back burner, until I looked at the calendar and realized that February was almost over. If you, like me, also intended to do this but have forgotten until now, the link for OSV's catalog page featuring Michael's books is here.
When we perform small, simple acts of charity for each other, whether in prayer, in sacrifice, or in material help, we are indeed pleasing God. We are becoming citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, who never hesitate to perform the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy for each other, and never get trapped in the prideful way of thinking which believes that we are sufficient for ourselves, that all of our good blessings and good fortune come from our own intelligent planning. For like the children in a family, we know that every good thing we have comes from our Father, and if we wish to become like Him we will cheerfully extend hands in help and in prayer whenever a cross our neighbor is carrying becomes weighted down with suffering, with pain, or with grief.