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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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Maria Goretti: One of the largest crowds ever assembled for a canonization—250,000—symbolized the reaction of millions touched by the simple story of Maria Goretti. 
<p>She was the daughter of a poor Italian tenant farmer, had no chance to go to school, never learned to read or write. When she made her First Communion not long before her death at age 12, she was one of the larger and somewhat backward members of the class. </p><p>On a hot afternoon in July, Maria was sitting at the top of the stairs of her house, mending a shirt. She was not quite 12 years old, but physically mature. A cart stopped outside, and a neighbor, Alessandro, 18 years old, ran up the stairs. He seized her and pulled her into a bedroom. She struggled and tried to call for help. “No, God does not wish it," she cried out. "It is a sin. You would go to hell for it.” Alessandro began striking at her blindly with a long dagger. </p><p>She was taken to a hospital. Her last hours were marked by the usual simple compassion of the good—concern about where her mother would sleep, forgiveness of her murderer (she had been in fear of him, but did not say anything lest she cause trouble to his family) and her devout welcoming of Viaticum, her last Holy Communion. She died about 24 hours after the attack. </p><p>Her murderer was sentenced to 30 years in prison. For a long time he was unrepentant and surly. One night he had a dream or vision of Maria, gathering flowers and offering them to him. His life changed. When he was released after 27 years, his first act was to go to beg the forgiveness of Maria’s mother. </p><p>Devotion to the young martyr grew, miracles were worked, and in less than half a century she was canonized. At her beatification in 1947, her mother (then 82), two sisters and a brother appeared with Pope Pius XII on the balcony of St. Peter’s. Three years later, at her canonization, a 66-year-old Alessandro Serenelli knelt among the quarter-million people and cried tears of joy.</p> American Catholic Blog Lord, may the medals we wear be constant reminders of the lives they depict. While wearing them, may we be blessed through the saints’ intercession and protected from harm. Help us to continue to spread the messages of Jesus and Mary and the saints and angels.

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