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Bible Reflections View Comments

Hearing the Words "You Are Loved"
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, January 12, 2014
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On a recent transatlantic flight, I indulged in a marathon of several of the Marvel comics recently turned into big-screen movies: Thor, The Avengers, Iron Man (1, 2 and 3!). I was struck by how often an underlying element dealt with father-and-son relationships. This is surely one of the archetypal myths of our culture. It’s not surprising, then, to find it in the stories of the Bible as well. Even our image of God is rooted in this primal relationship.

The expectations of parents and children are always complex, often misunderstood. Those who never find this recognition spend their entire lives searching for it, often in all the wrong places. Those who work too hard to achieve it can find themselves denying their own talents to be something they think their parents want them to be.

The story of Jesus’s Baptism is told in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. It’s hinted at in the Gospel of John. This event marked the beginning of Jesus’s public ministry, and in hindsight we can see it as the unequivocal sign from God that Jesus was the chosen one.

It’s easy to forget that Jesus was human as well as divine, that his earthly father may have died while he was still a child, that the direction of his life is suddenly far from what anyone in his village could have predicted. Surely the mystical experience at his baptism must have been a great reassurance that he was on the right track.

Joseph may have wanted Jesus to be a carpenter, but God the Father confirms his choice to accept the role designed for him from the beginning of time. This is an affirmation of who Jesus is, both as an individual and in relationship to the Father. It also reminds us God loves us more for who we are—his children—than for what we do. This is something that often gets turned upside down in our own human relationships.

In Matthew’s Gospel, we hear an exchange between John the Baptist and Jesus that the other evangelists don’t include. John is reluctant to baptize the man he recognizes as clearly superior to himself. We can understand John’s hesitation. He knows that his baptism is a cleansing of sin, and he recognizes that the man before him is no sinner. But Jesus was willing to be seen mingling with sinners, even here at the beginning of his ministry. This was the heart of his mission. Because he was so loved, he was able to reach out in love to everyone, saint and sinner alike.

Our first reading, chosen from one of Isaiah’s Suffering Servant songs, talks about justice being established through gentleness, forbearance, tolerance and patience. These qualities all suggest something much deeper than mere surface approval. They reflect the sort of deep understanding that makes it possible for us to grow into well-rounded and compassionate human beings.

We all know people who define themselves and their importance by what they do. We may do this ourselves. We need to find ways to let those people know they are loved simply for themselves, simply because God created them. Because once we are rooted in this love, there’s almost nothing we can’t do, not because we seek blessing but because we are blessed.

Jesus came to show us the way to union with God the Father, the one who will always say to us, “You are my beloved child, with whom I am well-pleased.” What more do we need?



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Jacopone da Todi: Jacomo, or James, was born a noble member of the Benedetti family in the northern Italian city of Todi. He became a successful lawyer and married a pious, generous lady named Vanna. 
<p>His young wife took it upon herself to do penance for the worldly excesses of her husband. One day Vanna, at the insistence of Jacomo, attended a public tournament. She was sitting in the stands with the other noble ladies when the stands collapsed. Vanna was killed. Her shaken husband was even more disturbed when he realized that the penitential girdle she wore was for his sinfulness. On the spot, he vowed to radically change his life. </p><p>He divided his possessions among the poor and entered the Secular Franciscan Order (once known as the Third Order). Often dressed in penitential rags, he was mocked as a fool and called Jacopone, or "Crazy Jim," by his former associates. The name became dear to him. </p><p>After 10 years of such humiliation, Jacopone asked to be a member of the Order of Friars Minor(First Order). Because of his reputation, his request was initially refused. He composed a beautiful poem on the vanities of the world, an act that eventually led to his admission into the Order in 1278. He continued to lead a life of strict penance, declining to be ordained a priest. Meanwhile he was writing popular hymns in the vernacular. </p><p>Jacopone suddenly found himself a leader in a disturbing religious movement among the Franciscans. The Spirituals, as they were called, wanted a return to the strict poverty of Francis. They had on their side two cardinals of the Church and Pope Celestine V. These two cardinals, though, opposed Celestine’s successor, Boniface VIII. At the age of 68, Jacopone was excommunicated and imprisoned. Although he acknowledged his mistake, Jacopone was not absolved and released until Benedict XI became pope five years later. He had accepted his imprisonment as penance. He spent the final three years of his life more spiritual than ever, weeping "because Love is not loved." During this time he wrote the famous Latin hymn, <i>Stabat Mater</i>. </p><p>On Christmas Eve in 1306 Jacopone felt that his end was near. He was in a convent of the Poor Clares with his friend, Blessed John of La Verna. Like Francis, Jacopone welcomed "Sister Death" with one of his favorite songs. It is said that he finished the song and died as the priest intoned the Gloria from the midnight Mass at Christmas. From the time of his death, Brother Jacopone has been venerated as a saint.</p> American Catholic Blog By immersing our lives in the rhythm of the season, charity can flood our souls and fill us with the happiness for which we were created. We awake Christmas morning prepared to celebrate the birth of our Savior not as a memory but as a profound experience of God’s redemptive love.

 
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