If you look up the verse from this particular piece of Handel’s Messiah, you’ll find that it’s actually in the first person in your Bible. We imagine Jesus saying, “Scorn has broken my heart … I looked for sympathy, but there was none, for comforters, but I found none.” This is not the uplifting verse I needed today. Like most of you, I’ve been reading so much news and I now know things I never thought I would, like the number of hospital beds per 100,000 residents of the UK. In my prayers and devotional life, I’ve been looking for a bit of a break; for some comfort myself. So, I sarcastically thought to myself this morning, “Thank you, Jesus, for pointing out that sympathy and those offering comfort are in short supply.”
And yet, as I paused and heard the tenor voice on YouTube sing these words to me, I thought of friends and family who are far more exhausted than I am. They’re in other countries, stuck in their homes and trying to occupy three boys under age 9, one of whom just developed a fever. I thought of friends with jobs and financial situations that force them to choose between a paycheck or trying to care for those vulnerable to illness. I thought about people who have lost income and are now hoping for their landlord to be filled with grace and mercy. I imagine they are looking for sympathy, but there may be none; for comforters, but they may be hard to find.
That’s when I also realized that Jesus is God-with-us, and we can also see God in the faces of others. As I meditated on this Psalm and this music, I was moved to sympathy toward those who needed it, and I was prompted to call loved ones and be a comforter for them. It turns out there may be an abundance of sympathy and comfort in our world after all, and it begins with you and I embodying the sympathy and comfort of Christ.
May we pray this prayer from St. Francis of Assisi together:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.