Bible Meditation: Consolation

Sunday July 3, 2022, four texts will be read.
First reading Book of Isaiah (Is 66, 10-14c).
Psalm 65.
Second reading Letter to the Galatians (Ga 6, 14-18).
The Gospel according to Saint Luke (10, 1-12.17-20).

Isaiah 66, 10-14c
Rejoice with Jerusalem!
Exult in her, all you who love her!
Rejoice with her,
all of you who mourned her!

Then you will be fed with her milk,
satiated with his consolations;
then you will taste with delight
to the abundance of his glory.
For the Lord declares:
“Behold I am directing towards her
peace like a river
and, like an overflowing torrent,
the glory of the nations. »
You will be fed, carried on the hip;
you will be pampered on his lap.
Like a child consoled by his mother,
thus, I will console you.

Yes, in Jerusalem you will be comforted.
You will see, your heart will be glad;
and your bones will live again as the grass turns green again.
The Lord will make his power known to his servants.

Consolation, a provocation for today?

“You who wept, you will be filled with consolation! I direct peace towards her like a river…” How to hear these words of the prophet Isaiah in this time when war destroys, kills, despairs and obstructs any future for our Ukrainian friends, for many other defenseless people around the world, victims of terrorism, organized gangs, juntas corrupt. Hear the consolation when we have suffered the death of a loved one, a spouse, child, parent, friend, how? Where do you find the strength to prepare for the future of your children when the current social situation condemns you to live from day to day?

In short, talking about consolation seems almost a provocation these days. And if we do it, however, it would require infinite modesty, delicacy, like a whisper. So as not to shock, hurt. This is not what Isaiah does in this page, he who even speaks of rejoicing and being full of joy! Yet he knows what it is about unhappiness and pain. Let us remember: in 586 BC, the Temple of Jerusalem was razed by King Nebuchadnezzar II and the people deported to the banks of the Tigris where the survivors were reduced to slavery.

Fifty years later, without having regained freedom because under Persian occupation, the community in exile returns to Judea. The poorest return first, those who had not been able to prosper during the exile in Babylon; the most miserable. They find a ravaged, plundered, ruined Jerusalem, like its Temple. It is there, in the midst of this disaster, that Isaiah proclaims the consolation that comes from God, that which will revive Jerusalem.

Believe in the action of God

A few chapters before this Sunday’s text, the prophet put these words in the mouth of God: “No, the hand of the Lord is not too short to save, his ear is not too hard to hear! » (Isaiah 59, 1). Our God has a long arm, but in his own way, which is not magical. Because consolation does not come to heal the afflicted and it refuses behaviors of denial or which would lead people to believe that everything will work out as if by magic, that “it’s not that serious, it will pass”. Perhaps even consolation is always that of the inconsolable: of those who welcome the consolation of the Friend, his closeness and his commitment to humanity, including our God, he whose memory is the “safest place (Christine Pedotti, the Inconsolable, Albin Michel), but nevertheless remain, in their flesh, in their soul, marked by drama, grief, desolation.

Refuse to become indifferent to misfortune

When all is lost or seems to be lost, on whom does our life depend? In the literal sense of the verb to rest. Resting on one shoulder, in a look or friendly and modest arms. To speak of consolation, to try to be its witness, is to say again and again that the established order, that of loss, of injustice, of crime, must be contested. It is refusing to become indifferent to misfortune, as “an art of not being scandalized by anything” (Michael Foessel, The time of consolation, Threshold), but on the contrary remain worried, dissatisfied: “Why this world and not another? Why me, him? » It is there, and nowhere else, that the Lord of Isaiah and Christ on the cross affirm that life is not condemned to remain broken, without horizon, without humanity.

Redirect your gaze

Following our God, our own modest but very real measures, to console and comfort means to be with, to regulate one’s step with the other, refusing (inwardly) to be overwhelmed by the incessant prophecies of doom, without denying anything of the real. To offer a gesture, a word, a sweet conversation, a presence that holds, it is then, we wish it from the bottom of our souls for others and ourselves, to be able to perhaps redirect our gaze. Towards the future, towards the living. Comfort can only come from a friend. Such is already the God of Isaiah.

Veronique Margron, provincial prioress of the Dominicans of the Presentation and president of the Conference of Religious of France. She teaches at the Faculty of Theology of Angers. She has notably published theFailure crossed (DDB), Fidelity-infidelity. lively question (Deer) and A moment of truth (Albin Michel).

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Bible Meditation: Consolation

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