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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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Leopold Mandic: Western Christians who are working for greater dialogue with Orthodox Christians may be reaping the fruits of Father Leopold’s prayers.
<p>A native of Croatia, Leopold joined the Capuchin Franciscans and was ordained several years later in spite of several health problems. He could not speak loudly enough to preach publicly. For many years he also suffered from severe arthritis, poor eyesight and a stomach ailment.
</p><p>Leopold taught patrology, the study of the Church Fathers, to the clerics of his province for several years, but he is best known for his work in the confessional, where he sometimes spent 13-15 hours a day. Several bishops sought out his spiritual advice.
</p><p>Leopold’s dream was to go to the Orthodox Christians and work for the reunion of Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy. His health never permitted it. Leopold often renewed his vow to go to the Eastern Christians; the cause of unity was constantly in his prayers.
</p><p>At a time when Pope Pius XII said that the greatest sin of our time is "to have lost all sense of sin," Leopold had a profound sense of sin and an even firmer sense of God’s grace awaiting human cooperation.
</p><p>Leopold, who lived most of his life in Padua, died on July 30, 1942, and was canonized in 1982.</p> American Catholic Blog Heavenly Father, give me the grace to be grateful and to use my gifts and talents to show your love to others so that when they see me, they recognize you living in me and loving them through me. I ask this in Jesus's name, Amen.

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