Thursday, 7 April 2016


6.Comfort the Afflicted

A visit, a phone call, an email accompanied by a kindly word and, where possible, a warm embrace and a helping hand - any these can be a great comfort to a person who is feeling ‘down and out!’ It is then that we come to the rescue when someone is uncomfortable; give of our strength to the person who is weak, is suffering from an affliction.
 This kind of response is what the 6th Spiritual Work of Mercy is all about: COMFORTING THE AFFLICTED.

Jesus used the Parable of the Good Samaritan in answer to the question, “Who is my neighbour whom I’m supposed love?” Jesus more or less told him he'd got it wrong. The correct approach is not to try to identify who is your neighbour. We are to discern who is neighbourly towards that person who needs our help of any kind. At that moment, in that situation we are needed to be neighbourly!

This is the very opposite of being a self-absorbed individualist, a concentrated ‘selfie.’ It belongs to our basic humanity – it is not something essentially religious – that we ‘go out of our way’ to  respond to a casualty as did the Good Samaritan…stranger to stranger. With Jesus we could surely say, “Even the pagans do as much, do they not?” (Mtt.5.48). Also I would have to add that some pious Christians do far less.            

To be indifferent to the misfortunes, the tragedies, the heart-breaks of others, is to be sub-human! Very different to this is the complete openness of Jesus,

'Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls,”  (Mtt.11.28)

I find a wry sadness in Ben Sirach when he writes,  Every friend will say, "I too am a friend"; but some friends are friends only in name…. Some companions rejoice in the happiness of a friend, but in time of trouble are against him,” (Ecclus. 37).

 We might expect Jesus, being the Son of God, to be a tower of strength. Wrong! He became a member of the human family. He shared our frailty.    Didn't He need the presence and prayers of His closest friends as He entered into His agony in Gethsemane? Great was His sadness that they couldn’t stay awake for even one hour,  (cf.Mtt.26.40).     

As He struggled His way to Calvary He, the Son of God, the Son of Man, the Suffering Servant, must have been grateful for the comfort offered to Him by the Daughters of Jerusalem and Veronica who wiped His sweaty, bleeding, face. Most of all, at the very extremity of His affliction, Jesus must have appreciated that His Mother, Mary, the other women and the Beloved Disciple  stood there at the foot of the Cross gazing at Him with compassion and love.

There’s a measure of truth in the claim that we can only begin to understand and feel the impact  of another’s pain after  we ourselves have had a taste of it! In no other way could  St. Paul have written to the Corinthians, 
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God,” (2. Cor.1.3).

The Son of God, in becoming Man, assumed the identity of the Suffering   Servant described by the Prophet Isaiah,                       

"Yet ours were the sufferings he was bearing, ours the sorrows.
 He was carrying…we have been healed by his bruises.” (Is.53).    

He alone was capable of  carrying the burden of humanity’s sinfulness, of making us totally acceptable to God. He alone could radically comfort us afflicted human beings, giving us a quality of peace that the world could never give.

Never should we think  our efforts to comfort others in their afflictions are  futile…the broken trying to mend the broken! For this and for all the other Works of Mercy the theme must surely be “If I can help somebody as I pass along then my living shall not be in vain!”
God forbid that any of us should be no use to anybody. If that were ever to be the case we would end up being of no use even to ourselves!

Let us Pray,

Heavenly Father, in recent years devotion to Divine Mercy has become very much part of our  spirituality. Love that was fully human, love that was utterly divine, love that was sensitive, love that was merciful, was what your Son, Jesus, brought to those who were touched by His ministry. Now He longs to bring this to the whole world through us, His disciples.

There are times when all of us need to be comforted by love that heals. We pray that at such times  you will send those who love you sufficiently, love us sufficiently, to come to support us and console us.

 Almighty Father, we pray that you will ensure that we never get so wrapped-up in our own affairs, our own problems, that we even  fail to notice those who are languishing in their helplessness, their hopelessness, their despair at the self-absorption of us, their human family.

We pray that through your Son, Jesus, the world in which live may be freed of its brutishness, its viciousness that is causing so much misery, such wretched insecurity.

Almighty Father, help us to make this a better world, a more loving, merciful world. Amen.  
For the sake of His Sacred Passion have mercy on us and the whole world. 

Peter Clarke, O.P.

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