God . . . encourages us . . . so that we may be able to encourage those who are in any affliction.

Since Renaissance times, two colossal fountains have adorned St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican. From each fountain, water cascades down a shallow dome of stone and falls onto a lower platform. There, the water spills over again, splashing into a pool at the fountain’s base. It’s like having two waterfalls, one on top of the other.

Hold on to this image of a two-tiered fountain. It may help clarify the mystery of God’s comfort that Paul speaks about in today’s reading (2 Corinthians 1:1-7).

In this emotionally-charged letter, Paul reveals that he has suffered much while serving God (2 Corinthians 11:23-29). He has been beaten, imprisoned, and shipwrecked. He has labored without food or sleep. He has been distressed over the challenges of building churches; the Corinthians, in particular, often gave him fits.

Still, Paul kept turning to the Lord for encouragement. And God, “the Father of compassion,” faithfully comforted Paul, both in his prayer and through the help of his friends (2 Corinthians 1:3). This overflowing fountain of comfort helped keep Paul going. More than that, it enabled him to sing in dark dungeons (Acts 16:25).

At the same time, Paul understood that the grace he was receiving wasn’t only for him. God meant it to overflow from Paul into the churches and the people he served, and then for it to flow out of them and into the world. That’s the mystery of God’s comfort: it’s meant to spill out!

So when you face a hardship, remember that God is a fountain of unlimited compassion and comfort. Try to imitate Paul by turning to the Lord, trusting in his provision and care. Seek his presence in your prayer, in your worship at Mass, and in your loved ones. You may not find him right away, but you can still believe that he is with you.

But don’t stop there. In addition to caring for yourself, look for opportunities to care for other people. Remember those fountains in St. Peter’s Square: God’s comfort is meant to flow into you and out of you.

“Lord, I trust that you will offer me your comfort today.”

Psalm 34:2-9
Matthew 5:1-12
2 Corinthians 1:1-7


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