2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NRSV
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our afflictions, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled.”
Paul begins his second letter to the church in Corinth by declaring that God is the “Father of mercies” and the source of all consolation (comfort). God’s mercy, Paul asserts, is personal, and trustworthy for God reaches out to the afflicted like a caring parent. Paul also connects God’s mercy (compassion) with God’s comfort; a comfort that is abundantly given. God’s mercy, Paul insists, empowers Christ’s followers to cultivate a heart of mercy towards others.
I powerfully witnessed mercy first hand from a pastoral colleague. Two weeks after leaving a church in Meadville, Pennsylvania, I received the horrific news that my colleague David’s thirteen-year-old son, Rob, had been tragically killed in a gun accident at the home of a friend. At Rob’s packed memorial service, I was so overwhelmed with emotion that I could barely speak or sing. So I was amazed when David was able to stand in the pulpit and ask this grieving congregation to follow his example and forgive and have mercy on his son’s suffering friend. In his deep agony, David, empowered by God, thought first about the affliction of this youth who had caused him such deep sorrow. David had clearly cultivated a heart of mercy.
Holy Week powerfully attests that God is the Father of mercies. It is a week where God allows his Son, Jesus, to experience a host of afflictions, including a cruel death on a cross, that we might experience the lasting comfort of God’s victory over sin and death. Holy Week also invites us to be a part of God’s good news narrative of mercy and salvation through cultivating a heart of mercy, that we, like our Savior, may be a channel of God’s mercy to others.
Compassionate God, Father of mercies, in love you are ever ready and willing to extend to us your abundant mercy and provide us with your divine comfort. Cultivate in each of us, we pray, a heart of mercy, that empowered by your love, we may be channels of your mercy and comfort to others. Amen.
Daniel Thomas, Jr.