The Sixth Spiritual Work of Mercy: To Comfort the Afflicted

We use the word "comfort" to often refer to things that are rather accessory in our lives. Like comfort food, or extra luxurious things. Perhaps there are times in life we feel desperate - without hope, literally, and are looking for simple reassurance. This almost always happens when serious illness comes into our lives. We are cut off from people that we love, people that we need, or even people in general. And we’ll do anything to have someone touch us, hold our hands, place a reassuring hand on our shoulders, or lift us from the depths into which we’ve sunk. Perhaps there are times in our lives when life seems to be falling apart: a relationship in disarray, the struggles of a student in first-year college, the fear of a young adult to search for a job, the expression on the lives of parents who just heard their child is gravely ill, the return of a depression we thought we were done with. At moments like these, and so many others, we look around for simple assurance, a simple sign that we are not alone, unloved, out on our own, or without help. Those around us lend an ear, or a hand. They give their time and attention. They listen patiently. It’s natural for us to look away when we see pain. We walk by the homeless, we cross the street to avoid those talking to themselves, we put off calling someone we’ve offended, we wait a little longer before making that hospital visit we should make. God, however, does not look away. His love includes the gaze upon our affliction; his grace brings us the ability to transcend it, to see beyond its confinements, to find hope because, at least, we know we are not alone.

As God does not look away, neither do the merciful, those who, seeing someone afflicted, feel compelled to comfort, to console, to reassure—to be, in short, the heart of God to one who is hurting. As we pray this week ask God for the courage to be merciful to those we meet who need a little comfort from us, help us not look away from the homeless and to offer to listen to that person who “talks too much.” All are children of God.