2 Corinthians 1:3-4
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.
Rabbi Abraham Heschel once remarked, “The man who has not suffered: what does he know anyway?” This good solid Jewish insight into human reality lies at the back of St. Paul’s remark today as well. We can take comfort from people who have “been there” a lot easier than we can endure improving advice from people who have read about pain in a book but never experienced it. This is why Jesus (and Mary and the martyrs) can speak comfort to us with such authority. Jesus knows what it is to suffer. Mary knows what it is to watch someone you love suffer (which is often just as hard) and the martyrs know what it is to suffer in imitation of Christ. They can speak to us of comfort because they’ve been there. The fear, the sense of abandonment (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”), the confusion, the darkness, the helplessness: all these things have been felt by Christ and his saints as part of the human condition. All of them (say these same saints) issue in life and peace if we stay with God and “endure to the end” with Christ. The saints can speak of it with authority, not with textbook advice, because they’ve lived it. They can comfort because they’ve been comforted. Today, if you face a trial, ask Jesus or one of his saints to share their comfort with you. They aren’t strangers to suffering themselves.