Whenever we hear the words console, comfort, joy, etc. we often think of weakness and softness. But if we consider the origin of the words, we will find out the opposite. It is easy to see in the word ‘Comfirmation’ the idea of ‘making firm’, but let us also see in the word ‘Consolation’, the idea of ‘making solid’ and in the word ‘Comfort’ the idea of ‘fortifying’. This is also linked to the virtue of fortitude which enables us to remain strong in the face of difficulties.

Our first reading of today calls to mind the famous song ‘Comfort ye my people’. If we look at it from the point of view of making strong, we understand that the Lord is coming to make us strong, to strengthen us in our weaknesses. But this strength is not our own strength, but the strength that comes from God. This strength will bring our time of slavery to sin to an end. Even the punishment of God is meant to make us stronger. It is with this strength that we will be able to lower the mountains and fill up the valleys. Isaiah is told to cry that all flesh is grass. On our own we have no power. That is why we are sustained by His power. The Lord is coming with power.

In the Gospel, we see a very tender saviour, who leaves the ninety-nine sheep in the hillside in search of the one that has strayed. The stayed sheep lacks the power to return home. The good shepherd carries it on His shoulder and brings it home. Whenever we talk about the tenderness of God and His love and compassion, we could be tempted to imagine what we consider tenderness and compassion in ourselves. God is not tender, compassionate and loving from the position of weakness, but from the position of strength. He is the strong one to make us strong. We could look for comfort and consolation from others, and there is nothing wrong with that. But how fortified and how solid are the people we look up to. Let us look up to the Lord who comes with power. He is the strong one who is coming to give us everlasting consolation and everlasting comfort. His consolation is not for us to remain where we are. He makes us strong so that we can deal effectively with our problems, especially our sinful tendencies. Even then, He will not abandon us. His constant presence comforts us constantly.

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