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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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Junipero Serra: In 1776, when the American Revolution was beginning in the east, another part of the future United States was being born in California. That year a gray-robed Franciscan founded Mission San Juan Capistrano, now famous for its annually returning swallows. San Juan was the seventh of nine missions established under the direction of this indomitable Spaniard. 
<p>Born on Spain’s island of Mallorca, Serra entered the Franciscan Order, taking the name of St. Francis’ childlike companion, Brother Juniper. Until he was 35, he spent most of his time in the classroom—first as a student of theology and then as a professor. He also became famous for his preaching. Suddenly he gave it all up and followed the yearning that had begun years before when he heard about the missionary work of St. Francis Solanus in South America. Junipero’s desire was to convert native peoples in the New World. </p><p>Arriving by ship at Vera Cruz, Mexico, he and a companion walked the 250 miles to Mexico City. On the way Junipero’s left leg became infected by an insect bite and would remain a cross—sometimes life-threatening—for the rest of his life. For 18 years he worked in central Mexico and in the Baja Peninsula. He became president of the missions there. </p><p>Enter politics: the threat of a Russian invasion south from Alaska. Charles III of Spain ordered an expedition to beat Russia to the territory. So the last two <i>conquistadors</i>—one military, one spiritual—began their quest. José de Galvez persuaded Junipero to set out with him for present-day Monterey, California. The first mission founded after the 900-mile journey north was San Diego (1769). That year a shortage of food almost canceled the expedition. Vowing to stay with the local people, Junipero and another friar began a novena in preparation for St. Joseph’s day, March 19, the scheduled day of departure. On that day, the relief ship arrived. </p><p>Other missions followed: Monterey/Carmel (1770); San Antonio and San Gabriel (1771); San Luís Obispo (1772); San Francisco and San Juan Capistrano (1776); Santa Clara (1777); San Buenaventura (1782). Twelve more were founded after Serra’s death. </p><p>Junipero made the long trip to Mexico City to settle great differences with the military commander. He arrived at the point of death. The outcome was substantially what Junipero sought: the famous “Regulation” protecting the Indians and the missions. It was the basis for the first significant legislation in California, a “Bill of Rights” for Native Americans. </p><p>Because the Native Americans were living a nonhuman life from the Spanish point of view, the friars were made their legal guardians. The Native Americans were kept at the mission after Baptism lest they be corrupted in their former haunts—a move that has brought cries of “injustice” from some moderns. </p><p>Junipero’s missionary life was a long battle with cold and hunger, with unsympathetic military commanders and even with danger of death from non-Christian native peoples. Through it all his unquenchable zeal was fed by prayer each night, often from midnight till dawn. He baptized over 6,000 people and confirmed 5,000. His travels would have circled the globe. He brought the Native Americans not only the gift of faith but also a decent standard of living. He won their love, as witnessed especially by their grief at his death. He is buried at Mission San Carlo Borromeo, Carmel, and was beatified in 1988. Pope Francis canonized him in Washington, D.C., on September 23, 2015.</p> American Catholic Blog Hope and faith can outshine the darkness of evil. However dense the darkness may appear, our hope for the triumph of the light is stronger still. Though violence continues to stain us with blood, the shadows of death can be dissipated with one act of light.

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