1 From Paul, chosen by God to be an apostle of Jesus Christ, and from Timothy, who is also a follower.
To God's church in Corinth and to all of God's people in Achaia.
2I pray that God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ will be kind to you and will bless you with peace!
Paul Gives Thanks
3Praise God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! The Father is a merciful God, who always gives us comfort. 4He comforts us when we are in trouble, so that we can share this same comfort with others in trouble. 5We share in the terrible sufferings of Christ, but also in the wonderful comfort he gives. 6We suffer in the hope that you will be comforted and saved. And because we are comforted, you will also be comforted, as you patiently endure suffering like ours. 7You never disappoint us. You suffered as much as we did, and we know that you will be comforted as we were.
8 My friends, I want you to know what a hard time we had in Asia. Our sufferings were so horrible and so unbearable that death seemed certain. 9In fact, we felt sure we were going to die. But this made us stop trusting in ourselves and start trusting God, who raises the dead to life. 10God saved us from the threat of death, and we are sure that he will do it again and again. 11Please help us by praying for us. Then many people will give thanks for the blessings we receive in answer to all these prayers.
Paul, the pastor-missionary, opens his heart and reflects on his vocation in 2 Corinthians. Some parts of the letter are intensely personal and reveal his inner struggles. The debate about the unity of the epistle (there are suggestions that it was composed of portions of two or more letters) does not affect our understanding of Paul’s message.
Today’s reading introduces us to Paul’s experience of God’s comfort in times of trouble. Through history, all people have faced the pain of broken relationships, misunderstandings, sickness, injuries, sin, and death. Certain individuals and groups bear additional sufferings because of factors such as social prejudices, racism, and political oppression. Beyond these factors, loyalty to God’s mission entails sacrifices and hardships. The apostle refers to a difficult period during which he and his colleagues felt crushed. Violent death seemed imminent. Later, he was certain that only God’s intervention had saved their lives. Paul understood such afflictions as sharing in the sufferings of Christ (v 5).
Paul’s words about God’s comfort are grounded in experience rather than abstract theory. He describes God as the Father who provides mercy and comfort when his children feel depleted, weak, and vulnerable. The word comfort means something more than sympathy. To comfort is to enter gently into the space of people who are hurting and confused, to offer understanding and consolation, and to strengthen their capacity to live fully and meaningfully. This definition helps us to grasp the significance of Paul’s teaching.
The God of mercy and comfort calls people to prayerful service in a world of wounded people. We are challenged to develop spiritual practices that seek the gracious help of the Father of mercy and comfort in our times of need. We are called to offer our lives in ministries of comfort to others.
Father of mercy. God of comfort, Give me consolation and healing in my times of sorrow. I ask for the grace of living today as an instrument of comfort for those around me that are overcome by loss and depression. In Jesus’ name. Amen.