Readings (Year C):
Reflection: God promises consolation
These days, it is impossible not to notice the pain, hurt, and tears of people in many parts of our world. Think of the pain of war: Women, men, and children scurrying to hide in bomb shelters; innocent lives trapped in burned out or collapsed buildings; and abandoned and traumatized elderly people without relief amidst the senseless devastation of war.
Or, think of the pain of natural disasters: lives and livelihoods destroyed in raging fires and floods. The pandemic still causes us pain, the pain of sickness and the sorrow of losing loved ones. Then there is the pain of simply living. Daily, people across the world wake up to a steady rise in the cost of living. The poor struggle to survive and parents wonder how to care for their children.
As I reflect on these experiences, I am reminded of “the time of great distress” in the second reading from the Book of Revelation. John tells us that the people who are gathered in the presence of God are those “who have survived the time of great distress.” They have endured persecution, torment, and tribulation on account of their faith. The good news is that their survival was not an accident. They survived because God sheltered and protected them. God did not abandon them to their fate. It is an important lesson to remember that, in times of trouble, we are always before God—or rather, God always gathers us into God’s presence.
John’s vision of the multitude of people before God’s throne reveals God’s desire for us. God desires to satisfy our hunger and quench our thirst; God desires to protect us from anything that would hurt us. Pause and listen to God’s promise: “They will not hunger or thirst anymore, nor will the sun or any heat strike them.” God will lead them “to springs of life-giving water, and God will wipe away tears from their eyes.”
As you hear these words, I invite you to reflect: Where is your pain? What hurts are you carrying in your life? What brings you tears? Your pain, hurt, or tears are not alien to God. Like the Good Shepherd in today’s Gospel, who knows every sheep by name, God knows your pain, feels your hurt and sees your tears. For your pain God promises new life; for your hurts God promises healing; and for your tears God promises consolation.
Wherever we may find ourselves in our lives, Jesus the Good Shepherd desires to shepherd us beyond our tears, beyond our hurts, from death unto life, from darkness unto light. The Good Shepherd gives us each day as a time of grace—a time to thrive rather than simply survive—because we are inheritors of God’s grace. God clothes us in robes of consolation, garments of comfort, and cloaks of healing. In times of distress, God leads us tenderly to springs of living water.
Let us rejoice and be glad, for we are God’s great and beloved multitude from every nation, race, people, and tongue. Amen!