Beginning as “Beloved”
Thursday, October 28, 2021
And a voice came out of the heavens: “You are my beloved Son. In you I am well pleased.” —Mark 1:11
In a homily on the Feast of Jesus’ Baptism, Fr. Richard Rohr describes the powerful nature of being named a beloved child of God.
We can’t start a spiritual journey on a negative foundation. If we just seek God out of fear or guilt or shame (which is often the legacy of original sin), we won’t go very far. If we start negative, we stay negative. We have to begin positive—by a wonderful experience, by something that’s larger than life, by something that dips us into the depths of our own being. That’s what the word baptism means, “to be dipped into.”
Jesus is thirty years old when his baptism happens. According to Mark’s Gospel, he hasn’t said a single thing up to now. Until we know we’re a beloved son or beloved daughter or even just beloved, we don’t have anything to say. We’re so filled with self-doubt that we have no good news for the world. In his baptism, Jesus was dipped in the unifying mystery of life and death and love. That’s where it all begins—even for him! The unique Son of God had to hear it with his own ears and then he couldn’t be stopped. Then he has plenty to say for the next three years, because he has finally found his own soul, his own identity, and his own life’s purpose.
After fourteen years as a chaplain in the Albuquerque jails, I am convinced that the reason people make great mistakes is because they have never heard what Jesus heard on the day of his baptism. They never heard another human voice, much less a voice from heaven, say to them, “You are a beloved son. You are a beloved daughter and in you I am well pleased.” If we’ve never had anyone believe in us, take delight in us, affirm us, call us beloved, we don’t have anywhere to begin. There’s nothing exciting and wonderful to start with, so we spend our whole lives trying to say those words to ourselves: “I’m okay, I’m wonderful, I’m great.” But we don’t really believe it. The word has to come from someone greater than us. That’s really a parent’s primary job—to communicate to their child that they are a beloved, eternally-existing child of God. Our jails are filled to over-flowing with people who never heard this foundational message—and sadly, so is much of our world.
The only purpose of the gospel, and even religion, is to communicate that one and eternal truth. Once we have that straight, nothing can stop us and no one can take it away from us, because it is given only, always, and everywhere by God—for those who will accept it freely. My only job and any preacher’s job is to try to replicate and resound that eternal message of God that initiates everything good on this earth—You are beloved children of God!
Adapted from Richard Rohr, “You Must Start with Something Positive,” homily, January 11, 2015.
Story from Our Community:
My son’s death in the destruction of 9/11 seemed an unbearable loss, and could not have been borne without the abundance of God’s grace. A friend introduced me to Richard Rohr and I was nourished into new understanding, new faith, new hope—and most especially into a new way of loving others. I also found a new way of falling in love with the Caring Creator and Cosmic Christ. I listen for our God now in the peace of knowing I’m guided and loved however I might stray—especially when I feel I have strayed. —Anne M.
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