In his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul speaks of the hope that we have in the resurrection: that we too will spring from our tombs and inherit the life that God is offering to us. Then “we shall always be with the Lord” (I Thessalonians 4:17). Then the apostle ends the letter with this: “Therefore comfort one another with these words” (4:18).
Comfort one another with these words. Comfort. Isn’t that what so many of us are desperately looking for, but in all the wrong places? We just want something to help us escape the mundane, the painful. We want some comfort, some avenue of release from our sorrows and the human condition.
This is something that is personally difficult. I read the Bible, I read these words from Paul, but I wonder: “How can I use these words to comfort my fellow Christians?” This is the job of the priest, to take the words of the Bible and make them alive. I am being asked by the church and by God to break open the meaning of these words and provide solace in times of grief. This is a tall order, to preach the truth, and the truth will comfort you. God help me.