Question: In Col 1:24, we read about our sufferings “filling up what is lacking in…
What is lacking in Christ’s passion?
Question: I can’t understand the passage where St. Paul says, “In my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church” (Col 1:24). How can anything be lacking, and what would it be?
— Chester Martin, New Orleans
Answer: When Christ suffered on the cross, the whole Christ suffered. Now you and I are members of Christ’s body (cf. 1 Cor 12:27). And although we live forward in time from Christ’s passion, we were still mystically, but really and truly, present on that day. It is in this sense that we are “filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ.” It is only lacking in the sense that our share of the Passion is extended in time. When our time comes, we fulfill our role and endure our share of the Passion. This fills the gap in the Passion that waited for us, even as other gaps will be filled by those who come after us to fill up their portion. So there is nothing lacking in the perfect sacrifice of Jesus as such (cf. Heb 10:10-14). It is just that the portions assigned to all the future members of the full Body of Christ are yet to be realized. It is our part that is “lacking,” not Jesus’ part.
Blessing holy water
Question: I serve as a sacristan, and one day when the holy water stoup went empty, I refilled it and asked the pastor to bless it when he entered the sacristy. He seemed annoyed and just came over and waved his hand over the water (in the sign of a cross?) and said, “May God bless this water.” Was this adequate to bless the water?
— Name and place withheld
Answer: I suppose it was blessed, but the priest was certainly out of line to so casually bless the water. There are prescribed prayers to be said for the blessing of holy water. And, since holy water is often used to bless other things and people, it is important to give special care to its blessing. The proper rituals are found in sources such as the Sacramentary, which has a formula in the back. The old ritual also has proper prayers to say, and many priests have returned to using it since it includes exorcisms and the admixture of blessed and exorcised salt. At certain times of the year, there are also special blessings for holy water such as at Epiphany and Easter. These types of holy water carry special power and meaning since they have an entire liturgy that surrounds them.
At the end of the day, words matter, and because they are uttered by a priest who acts in Christ’s name, they change the reality of whatever is blessed. Words that elaborate what we ask of God and that piously express the meaning of the blessed objects are more powerful and convey a stronger blessing. Care should be taken to bless things thoughtfully and with faith-filled approved words. There will be times where a priest does not have access to the ritual and is asked to bless an object such as a medal or rosary. People come to priests outside after Mass, in religious goods stores, at airports and many such places; in such cases, it may have to suffice that he offers a brief and general blessing. But when possible, the ritual and its words should be followed.
Loved ones in heaven
Question: Can our loved ones in heaven look down at any time and see us?
— Jeff Mundell, Washington, D.C.
Answer: Probably not. That might even be an invasion of privacy. It is more likely that they are made generally aware by the Lord of our doings and prayers for them and requests from them.
The way our communication with the saints occurs always depends on the head of the body, who is Christ Jesus. It is much the same that my two hands cannot work together on some activity, such as typing or assembling a model, unless they are directed and united by the head of my body. Further, my foot can communicate that it is itchy to my hand only through the head, which then dispatches the hand to scratch it. It seems best to assume that communication with those in heaven is much the same. One member of the Body of Christ here on earth can only speak to another in heaven if the head of the body, Christ, somehow facilitates it.