(01-23-09) At his baptism when Jesus rose from his immersion in the waters of the Jordan river, he heard the words : "You are my beloved son on whom my favor rests." Those powerful words which Jesus undoubtedly shared with his disciples reveal a gripping moment in his growth in his
own awareness of who he was-the Beloved Son of the Father. That spiritual center -"Beloved Son of the Father" -would endure during his whole life, no matter what happened.
Jesus does not allow himself to follow the temptations to become a "false self": one who will turn stones into bread, one who will jump from a high point in the temple, one who will make others bow to his power. He continues to focus on his "true self," his "genuine self", the one who
is beloved by the Father.
Follow him now as he makes his way to the synagogue where he regularly goes with his fellow Jews to meditate, to pray, to share in the wonderful service. Today Luke describes Jesus as speaking in the synagogue of Nazareth, his home town. Handed the scroll of Isaiah the prophet , Jesus
turns to the gripping reading from Isaiah: a "job description" of the one who is called "the Servant of the Lord." Jesus then claims that very agenda as his own:
"The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim
liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind; to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord." The eyes of all are fixed on him. Jesus-in ever growing confidence of what it means for him to be the Beloved Son, says: "This Scripture passage is
being fulfilled today even while you are listening." -one of the shortest sermons ever written.
The "poor", "captives," the "blind", the "oppressed" are the ones to whom Jesus is speaking ---those in the Nazareth synagogue at that time, and you and me in this church today.. . that is all the people who are listening to Jesus proclaim the Word of the Lord. Henri Nouwen, one of
the outstanding spiritual guides of our age, writes: "It is in listening that God becomes present and heals us." In his "inaugural address" in the Nazareth synagogue, Jesus, the Beloved of the Father, has begun his mission -to reveal the Father's love for us.
The Word of God is not something that we stick as a "honey do" or "honey, don't forget" note on the refrigerator and apply at a later date. It is a word that we can, in grace, allow to sink into us to heal us here and now. Gradually, as we listen to the "word of the Lord" we grow in
the awareness of our own identity as "beloved sons and daughters of the Father." All humans are God's chosen ones and can grow in response to his grace, his love-no one is excluded. In our own growth you and I have within us the divine life begun in our baptism and strengthened by the sacraments.
Deep friendship can help us realize that each of us is precious, irreplaceable in God's eyes. Hopefully, you and I can say sincerely to one other person: "Always remember how much I love you." Remember this as you enfold your loved ones in your arms and give her or him your blessing
and receive her or his blessing in return.
In the evening when you make your "examen of consciousness, examen of awareness" -hopefully - may you listen to the voice that says good things about you. . . especially God's voice that you can hear with the ear of your faith and the ear of your heart. Be silent in prayer to listen
to that voice. . . Please, .don't clog up your silence with vocal prayers. Vocal prayers are fine-in fact, essential in our growth in prayer-if they are thoughtful, and not by way of rote, but listening with the heart is even more basic
In our growth into our "true selves," our "genuine selves" as "the beloved of God" , we never grow alone. There is a mysterious link between ourselves and all others. In the words of Henri Nouwen: "We have few talents, but we have many gifts. Our gifts are the many ways in which we
express our humanity. They are part of who we are: friendship, kindness, patience, joy, peace, forgiveness, gentleness, love, hope, trust, and many others." Our lives and even our deaths can be a gift for others.
As you and I experience pain and frustration-perhaps in our intimate relationships - we remember that we are the "beloved of God". That doesn't take away the pain, but it helps to put it into some perspective as we struggle to grow in complete surrender to the deathless love of the
"beloved Son of the Father for us." The "mutual brokenness" that we can share with others leads us more deeply to claim our identity as "beloved sons and daughters in Christ, the beloved son." "Christ is the supreme lover who longs to be loved. He constantly asks you and me: "Do you love me?"
Dear Friends, in our growth into our "true selves," our "genuine selves" as the "beloved of God", may we not be afraid to admit our brokenness, our incompleteness. There's a powerful scene at the end of Leonard Bernstein's theatre piece, "Mass". . . .a piece which was the main
presentation at the inauguration of the Kennedy Center in Washington. (A few versions of Bernstein's "Mass" are now available on DVD) A friend and I saw this theatre piece a few months after it opened. I vividly recall the scene. The priest, splendidly attired in rich liturgical vestments is lifted high by
his people. He carries in his hands a glass chalice. Suddenly,