Comfort others by pointing them to Christ Print
Bishop Morlino's Column
Written by Bishop Robert C. Morlino   
Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017 -- 12:00 AM
This column is the bishop’s communication with the faithful of the Diocese of Madison. Any wider circulation reaches beyond the intention of the bishop.

Dear Friends,

If one were to put together the themes of the first reading and the Gospel from this past Sunday, Dec. 10, one might well conclude that the one who gives comfort to the people — the comforter — is St. John the Baptist. But, St. John the Baptist appears in camel’s hair.

Now, when St. John the Baptist is presented as the one who gives comfort, that is not the same use of the word as in “comfort food” — of which I have had my share. This is not the meaning of comfort at all. How can we tell that at first glance? Well, St. John the Baptist ate locusts and wild honey . . . that ain’t comfort food!

Comfort others by being strong

To comfort, in the Latin derivation, is to be “strong with.” To comfort someone is not just to make them feel good, as they might over a beautiful, and yet, light lasagna. St. John the Baptist comforted the people by being strong with them.

St. John the Baptist preached the Holy Spirit and fire. He told the people to prepare for the wrath to come.

St. John the Baptist said a lot of things that were not “feel good” talk.

St. John the Baptist is, in fact, the patron saint of the politically incorrect. And to imitate him as the forerunner of Christ, to imitate him as the one who points to Christ, is to be the one who is not afraid to be politically incorrect for the sake of the Truth. That could be a full-time job here in Madison.

So, to be strong with people like St. John the Baptist, to comfort them, means first of all providing the Truth — even at the cost of being politically incorrect.

We are not the Messiah

Secondly, it means having the humility to admit, as St. John the Baptist did so beautifully, “I am not the Messiah!”

We have too many people in our country who decide to give being the Messiah a shot. They sadden themselves and they sadden others. “I’m going to fix it!” they say. They lose sight of the truth that apart from Christ, they can do nothing.

What a comforting relief it is to have the burden lifted off our shoulders of thinking that we have to be the Messiah! That is part of being “strong with.” I never for a minute think that I am the Messiah; I am relieved of that responsibility. All I have to do is point people to Jesus. To recognize their suffering, and to recognize what and who it is that will provide their suffering with meaning.

Give more than ‘comfort food’

So, if we are going to give comfort, even to those who are sick, or those who have lost a loved one, we don’t simply give them physical or psychological comfort food.

To behave only with the motivation of making someone feel good does not provide real and lasting comfort. It provides a distraction or an analgesic to numb them from reality for a bit. But it does not lead them to the peace and the joy and the salvation, which the Messiah wants for them.

This is how I strive to give comfort in my life and through my work, and it is how we are called to give comfort to our community and our nation — to be “strong with,” even when it seems politically incorrect, and to point others to the Messiah, recognizing always that I am not He!

Praised be Jesus Christ!