Comforting Arms (Isaiah 66:13)
In his bi-weekly reflection on FamVin, Fr. Tom McKenna of the Eastern Province reminds us that comfort is high among the promises of Jesus’ Kingdom – the Reign of God bringing protection, welcoming, a soothing of painful wounds, a safe harbor… We are to be his comforting arms to all those in need.
This past very hot 4th of July, I was at the beach sitting under an umbrella when I heard a young child start to scream. I looked over and it was a little girl standing there whose feet were being scalded as she tried to walk across the burning sand. Before I could move, her mother came running across, picked her up, held her tightly and then carried her back into the shade. It brought to memory a similar scene in an old movie, Harvey, starring Jimmy Stewart. A harried business man reminisces about a comforting dream he had at a very troubled time in his life. He was lying in a forest meadow and leaning back in the lap of a beautiful young woman as she stroked his head and kept repeating “everything will be alright; everything will be alright.”
These two scenarios might be called “portraits of comfort,” depictions of being rescued, soothed, and made secure in the arms of someone who cherishes and loves you.
The Kingdom Jesus announces promises many wonderful things. Comfort is high among them – the Reign of God bringing protection, welcoming, a soothing of painful wounds, a safe harbor. In Isaiah’s reassurance, “As a mother comforts her child, so shall I comfort you. In Jerusalem, you shall find your comfort.” (66:13) Jesus charges his disciples to extend this solace, “I am sending you like lambs among wolves. Whatever house you enter, say peace to this household.” They are to take to the roads of their time with words and actions that would ease burdens. Though other Kingdom goods are also promised (e.g., justice, enlightenment, inclusion), this healing consolation is woven into the bounty The Lord holds out, the “peace beyond all telling” that the Kingdom of God assures.
Jesus’ summons comes to each of us in Vincent’s Family today. “Go out to all nations and proclaim that the Kingdom of God is at hand.” Step into your everyday world and make God’s presence real; make comfort, security and well-being come alive in this time and place.
Comforting might take any form, — sitting with someone who is upset and simply being present, supporting a brother who has just failed at something important (a lost job, a shattered relationship), stepping in to let a hurting neighbor know others care about her.
Not just off in the future, the Kingdom of God is “at hand.” It is up close and personal, unfolding and happening now. Crowning these works of mercy is the Eucharist, that invite into the arms of the Shepherd who pours out his whole Self, body and blood, for each of us. It is The Lord once again putting flesh on that pledge, “As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you.”
Laying out his “code of conduct” for his Father’s Kingdom, the Beatitudes, Jesus underlines this special one, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” As disciples we’re summoned to extend the Lord’s reassurance, encouragement and consolation. We are to be his comforting arms to all those in need.