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Bible Reflections View Comments

Loved From the Beginning of Time
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, January 13, 2013
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How often do novels, movies and plays revolve around the central character’s desire for recognition from a parent—a father’s love, a mother’s approval, a sign that one’s life is worthwhile? This desire is one of the first we’re aware of as infants, when our very survival depends on care from an adult. It’s one of the most difficult desires to satisfy as we grow into independent and yet connected persons.

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. It’s a longing that can haunt many of us into adulthood and even old age.

Today’s feast is the first time in the Gospels that we hear God’s explicit acknowledgment of Jesus as his “beloved Son.” And it’s portrayed as a very public acknowledgment. This is what propels him forward into ministry, into living out his destiny as Son of God and Servant of God.

It’s important to note that this affirmation takes place at the beginning of Jesus’s public ministry. This is not some kind of “atta boy” reward for success or accomplishment. This is an affirmation of who he is, both in and of himself and in relationship to God the Father. 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.

Susan McGurgan writes, “God’s love was present at the beginning of the journey, long before the ending was revealed. God’s approval came from the start—before Jesus calmed the storm or set one captive free. Jesus was beloved, even before the water became wine and before that wine was offered up for us. God’s love surrounded Jesus, not because Jesus did something, or said something, or proved something, but because he was something.

“For most of us, this kind of love is hard to understand and even harder to accept. Somehow, in our brokenness, we’ve come to believe that God’s love must be earned, and that God’s blessings, like bonuses, are carefully calculated and rationed. We only feel loveable after we’ve walked on water or fed a crowd of hungry people. The kind of love poured out for Jesus—if it comes to us at all—should come only as a benediction, not as a beginning.”

Many of us know from the friendships we form as adults the kind of mutual love and respect that can comfort, challenge, inspire, and sustain us. We have people in our lives who love us without expectation, without demands, without conditions. Whether this comes from family or friends, it mirrors the love of the Trinity, the love in which Jesus was baptized, the love in which all of us are baptized. If we know this love ourselves, we can’t help but share it with others.

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 them know that 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.


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Alphonsus Rodriguez: Tragedy and challenge beset today’s saint early in life, but Alphonsus Rodriguez found happiness and contentment through simple service and prayer. 
<p>Born in Spain in 1533, Alphonsus inherited the family textile business at 23. Within the space of three years, his wife, daughter and mother died; meanwhile, business was poor. Alphonsus stepped back and reassessed his life. He sold the business and, with his young son, moved into his sisters’ home. There he learned the discipline of prayer and meditation. </p><p>Years later, at the death of his son, Alphonsus, almost 40 by then, sought to join the Jesuits. He was not helped by his poor education. He applied twice before being admitted. For 45 years he served as doorkeeper at the Jesuits’ college in Majorca. When not at his post, he was almost always at prayer, though he often encountered difficulties and temptations. </p><p>His holiness and prayerfulness attracted many to him, including St. Peter Claver, then a Jesuit seminarian. Alphonsus’s life as doorkeeper may have been humdrum, but he caught the attention of poet and fellow-Jesuit Gerard Manley Hopkins, who made him the subject of one of his poems. </p><p>Alphonsus died in 1617. He is the patron saint of Majorca.</p> American Catholic Blog People mess up, and it’s especially hard to watch as our children and other young people go down paths we know are likely to lead to heartbreak. Providing gentle guidance when it’s needed, and love even when that guidance isn’t followed, helps them to start fresh.

 
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