“Speak tenderly”  — these words to a community that has lost everything: its land, its temple, and seemingly its God.

In desolation God’s promise remains, and God desires to speak “tenderly” –literally “to the heart”– of Israel a word of comfort that penetrates more deeply than anxiety and lays a new foundation of hope.

These words assuredly shaped the faith of Mary and Joseph, who knew their God to be one of comfort and tenderness, a God who cares for the lowly and destitute. This is the faith that made rough places smooth…that allowed Joseph to call off a divorce and embrace his young wife…and that allowed Mary to accept the gift of God’s son in her very womb.

During this season of hopeful waiting, how am I being comforted? How am I comforting others? How can I comfort others?

— Ryen Dwyer, S.J., a Chicago-Detroit province Jesuit scholastic, is currently studying philosophy at Loyola University Chicago.