Below is a recent catechesis by Pope Benedict XVI on “God comforts us in trial and tribulation.”
Our Holy Father affirms that living every situation united to Christ is the only way to overcome
discouragement in the face of suffering and troubles. He speaks of prayer as an encounter
of the “yes” of God and the “amen” of man.
Peace and good will,
God comforts in trial & tribulation
Every Wednesday our Holy Father addresses the faithful in the General Audience. This catechesis was given at St. Peter’s Square on May 30, 2012, which focuses on
the belief that every living situation united to Christ is the only way to overcome discouragement in the face of suffering and troubles.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In the series of Catecheses we are meditating on prayer in the Letters of St. Paul and we are endeavouring to see Christian prayer as a true and personal encounter with God the Father, in Christ, and through the Holy Spirit. At this meeting today the faithful “yes” of God and the trusting “amen” of believers enter into dialogue and I would like to emphasize this dynamic by reflecting on the second Letter to the Corinthians. St. Paul sends this passionate Letter to a Church which has called his apostolate into question on several occasions and opens his heart so that those to whom he is writing may be reassured of his fidelity to Christ and to the Gospel. This Second Letter to the Corinthians begins with one of the most exalted prayers of blessing in the New Testament. It says “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” (2 Cor 1:3-4).
Indeed Paul lived amidst great trials, he had to pass through much difficulty and affliction but he never gave into discouragement. He was sustained by the grace and closeness of the Lord Jesus Christ, for whom he had become an apostle and a witness, putting his whole life into Jesus’ hands. For this very reason Paul begins this Letter with a prayer of blessing and thanksgiving to God, since in his life as a Apostle of Christ he never, not even for a single moment, felt deprived of the support of the merciful Father, the God of all comfort.
His suffering was appalling, as he says in this very Letter, but in all these situations, when it seemed that there was no way out, he received consolation and comfort from God. he was also persecuted for proclaiming Christ and even thrown into prison, but he always felt inwardly free, enlivened by Christ’s presence and keen to proclaim the word of hope of the Gospel.
So it was that he wrote from prison to Timothy, his faithful collaborator. In chains, he wrote, “the word of God is not fettered. Therefore I endure everything for the (God’s) sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which in Christ Jesus goes with eternal glory” (2 Tim 2:9b-10). In suffering for Christ, he experiences God’s consolation. He writes: “For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too (2 Cor 1:5).
So, in the prayer of blessing that introduced the Second Letter to the Corinthians, the theme of affliction stands out next to the theme of consolation. This should not be understood merely as comfort but especially as an encouragement and an exhortation
not to let oneself be overcome by trials and tribulations. The invitation is to live every situation united to Christ, who takes upon his shoulders the whole burden of the world’s suffering and sin in order to bring light, hope and redemption (emphasis added).
Dear brothers and sisters, our life and our journey are frequently marked by difficulty, misunderstanding and suffering. We all know it. In a faithful relationship with the Lord, in constant daily prayer, we too can feel tangibly the consolation that comes from God. And this strengthens our faith, because it enables us to have an actual experience of God’s “yes” to man, to us, to me, in Christ (emphasis added). It makes us feel the fidelity of his love which even extended to the gift of his Son on the Cross. St. Paul says, “for the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we preached among you, Silvanus and Timothy and , was not Yes and No; but in him it is always Yes. For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why we utter the Amen through him, to the glory of God “ (2 Cor 1:19-20). The “yes” of God is not halved, it is not somewhere between “yes” and “no’, but is a sound and simple “yes”. And we respond to this “yes” with our own “yes”, with our “amen”, and so we are sure of the “yes” of God.
Faith is not primarily a human action but rather a freely given gift of God which is rooted in his faithfulness, in his “yes”, which makes us understand how to live our life, loving him and our brethren. The whole history of salvation is a gradual revelation of this faithfulness of God, in spite of our infidelity and negation, in the certainty that “the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable!”, as the Apostle declares in his Letter to the Romans (11:29).
Dear brothers and sisters, God’s way of acting–very different from ours–gives us comfort, strength and hope because God does not withdraw his “yes”. In the face of stressful human relations, even in the family, we often fail to persevere in freely given love which demands commitment and sacrifice. Instead, God does not grow tired of us; he never wearies of being patient with us and, with his immense mercy, always leads the way and reaches out to us first: his “yes” is absolutely reliable (emphasis added).
In the event of the Crucifixion he offers us the measure of his love which does not count the cost and knows no bounds. St. Paul writes in his Letter to Titus: “the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior a[[eared” (Tit 3:4). And because this “yes” is renewed every day, “it is God who…has commissioned us; he has put his seal upon us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee” (2 Cor 1:21b-22).
Indeed, it the Holy Spirit who makes God’s “yes” in Jesus Christ constantly present and alive and creates in our hearts the desire to follow him so as to enter totally into his love, one day, when we will receive a dwelling place in heaven not built by human hands. There is no one who has been touched and called into question by this faithful love, which is also capable of waiting even for all those who continue to respond with the “no” of rejection or of the hardening of their hearts. God waits for us, he always seeks us out, he wants to welcome us into communion with him to give to each one of us fullness of life, hope and peace.
The Church’s “amen” is grafted onto God’s faithful “yes” which resonates in every action of the Liturgy. “Amen” is the answer of faith that always concludes our personal and community prayers and expresses our “yes” to God’s project. We often respond to prayers with our “amens” out of habit, without grasping its deep meaning.
The word derives from ‘aman’, which in Hebrew and in Aramaic means “to make permanent”, “to consolidate” and, consequently, “to be certain,” “to tell the truth”. …
Dear friends, prayer is the encounter with a living Person to listen to and with whom to converse; it is the meeting with God that renews his unshakable fidelity, his “yes” to man, to each one of us, to give us his consolation in the storms of life and to enable us to live, united to him, a life full of joy and goodness, which will find fulfilment in eternal life (emphasis added).
In our prayers we are called to say “yes” to God, to respond with this “amen” of adherence, of faithfulness to him throughout our life. We can never achieve this faithfulness by our own efforts; it is not only the fruit of our daily striving; it comes from God and is founded on the “yes” of Christ who said: “my food is to do the will of the Father” (cf. Jn 4:34).
It is into this “yes” that we must enter, into this “yes” of Christ, into adherence to God’s will, in order to reach the point of saying with St. Paul that it is not we who live but Christ himself who lives in us. Then the “amen” of our personal and community prayers will envelop and transform the whole of our life into a life of God’s consolation, a life immersed in eternal and steadfast love. Thank you.
–Pope Benedict XVI
General Audience; May 30, 2012
L’Osservatore Romano; June 6, 2012; pp. 18-19