“I like you.”

This is the first thing I heard when I picked up the phone the other day. It was a college friend of mine, Chip, using a line that has been a running joke with us for many years. As it happened, I had experienced a challenging day when he called, and our conversation was a much-needed source of encouragement. Despite the difficulties I had faced that day, it was good to hear from Chip, who likes me despite my countless mistakes and faults.

So what are the ultimate words of encouragement? Perhaps it’s the wrong question; maybe we should focus on the who rather than the what.

In Matthew chapter 11, Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

While Jesus was speaking here to those burdened by the teachings of the scribes and Pharisees, the encouragement He offers also rings true in our lives today. We all struggle in different areas of life, although many of our burdens are internal – and can’t be seen by others.

Isn’t this an opportunity?

Life dishes out its share of challenges. Our burdens, caused by sin, are lighter when we help one another along. In a human sense, our words of encouragement to others can be used by the Holy Spirit as a healing balm.

At another level, Jesus Himself, The Word Incarnate, is the ultimate encouragement. That’s why I never tire of receiving our Lord in the Eucharist. Think of it as divine encouragement.

Let’s resolve to offer some words of encouragement to someone today.

I’d like to encourage my non-Catholic friends to investigate the Eucharist using faithful Catholic sources. I’ve heard the Eucharist described as the key to Christian unity, which is more important than ever. It’s worth checking out. Here’s a good starting point.

For my former Catholic friends, I’d like to encourage you to consider returning home – you’re just one good confession away. It’s the most precious gift I’ve received, and I’d like you to have it once again for yourself.

By the way, Chip – I like you too!