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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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James of the Marche: Meet one of the fathers of the modern pawnshop! 
<p>James was born in the Marche of Ancona, in central Italy along the Adriatic Sea. After earning doctorates in canon and civil law at the University of Perugia, he joined the Friars Minor and began a very austere life. He fasted nine months of the year; he slept three hours a night. St. Bernardine of Siena told him to moderate his penances. </p><p>James studied theology with St. John of Capistrano. Ordained in 1420, James began a preaching career that took him all over Italy and through 13 Central and Eastern European countries. This extremely popular preacher converted many people (250,000 at one estimate) and helped spread devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus. His sermons prompted numerous Catholics to reform their lives and many men joined the Franciscans under his influence. </p><p>With John of Capistrano, Albert of Sarteano and Bernardine of Siena, James is considered one of the "four pillars" of the Observant movement among the Franciscans. These friars became known especially for their preaching. </p><p>To combat extremely high interest rates, James established <i>montes pietatis</i> (literally, mountains of charity)--nonprofit credit organizations that lent money at very low rates on pawned objects. </p><p>Not everyone was happy with the work James did. Twice assassins lost their nerve when they came face to face with him. James died in 1476 and was canonized in 1726.</p> American Catholic Blog Let us never tire of seeking the Lord—of letting ourselves be sought by him—of tending over our relationship with him in silence and prayerful listening. Let us keep our gaze fixed on him, the center of time and history; let us make room for his presence within us.

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