What I am about to say is shocking and revolutionary. Some will find it unbelievable and absurd.
Others will think it is even blasphemous. However, if this message were ever to leave this
building, it would turn the whole world upside down. If we were able to take this message to
heart, it would transform the way we treat each other and solve many of our society’s problems.
The message is - God loves you.
Listen to it again - God loves you.
We have all heard this small, simple sentence thousands of times since we were children. However, if it does not surprise us, then we never really have taken it to heart. And if it has not revolutionized our lives, then we have never really heard the message.
This God who loves us is the creator of the universe. With an awesome explosion of energy and matter, He sent the planets hurling into space. In this vast universe, nothing happens without His knowing it and willing it. All the wonders of our beautiful planet - the ocean’s depths, the mountain’s heights - were all sculpted by His creating hand. He is a God of unfathomable power.
Yet this God knows each of us by name. As Jesus tells us, He has counted the number of hairs on our heads. We never leave His sight. He is never distracted from thinking about each one of us. Though He commands a vast universe, His one desire is to love us and to have us love Him in return.
When we reflect on this awesome truth, when we let it sink into our hearts, it can truly change our lives. How could we ever feel inferior to others when the God of the universe considers us His beloved? How could we ever fear knowing that our lives are in the loving hands of our Creator? And how could we ever fail to treat others with dignity and respect when they are also loved by our Heavenly Father?
As we hear in today’s gospel, when Jesus was baptized, the heavens opened up and the Father’s voice boomed out, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” It was the Father’s love for Him that shaped Jesus’ life. His whole mission in life, starting with His baptism, was to spread that love to the world. He did it by preaching. He did it by healing the sick, casting out demons and raising the dead. He also did it by establishing a Church which was commissioned with carrying that message of love to all nations and all peoples down through the centuries.
It was this knowledge of God’s love which gave Jesus courage to preach the good news even when He was ridiculed and rejected. It was this confidence that emboldened Him to accept the tortures of death on a cross and to endure even when He felt most abandoned. Because of that love, He was able to commend His soul into the hands of His Heavenly Father. Finally, that love was affirmed when God raised Jesus from the dead.
Jesus is God’s face shining down upon us. He shows us how far our Heavenly Father will go to win our love. He did not spare even His Son so that we could be reconciled to Him. If such a message does not leave us stunned, then we have never really understood it and taken it to heart.
Each of us has not only been created by God, but we have also been saved by Him. Through the waters of baptism, He has cleansed us and chosen us to be His adopted sons and daughters. He has put His life’s breath in us through the gift of the Holy Spirit. To each of us He proclaims, “This is my beloved son, this is my beloved daughter, with whom I am well pleased.”
God not only loves us but He is pleased with us. All of us have sinned. None of us has lived up to the dignity that is ours as sons and daughters of God. In both small and great ways, we have rejected the hand that our Heavenly Father extends to us. However, God never stops loving us. There is nothing we can do to make God love us more. There is nothing we can do to make God love us less. No matter what bad choices we have made, we can always return to Him and ask for forgiveness. No matter how forgetful of Him we have been, we can always turn to Him and ask for help. And we can have confidence that He will answer us in marvelous ways if we are truly sorry and our heart is open.
In our prayer throughout this coming week, let us meditate on this remarkable truth. In quiet reflection, let us allow the message to sink into our mind, heart and soul. Let us hear God saying to us, “Your are my beloved. I am pleased with you.” In the silence of our hearts, let us allow God to simply love us.
Then, let us reflect on how much God loves others. Let us consider that God loves those whom we ignore, whom we find offensive or whom we consider inferior to ourselves. God loves those who have hurt us, who have neglected us and who have abandoned us.
When we let that truth sink in, we will live with more confidence knowing that our Heavenly Father will provide for us. We will see others as our sisters and brothers rather than as strangers. It will become easier for us to forgive when we realize how much we have been forgiven. As we understand how much God loves us, we will be able to love others ourselves. As amazing as it might sound, we will become more and more like Jesus.
Then this simple but revolutionary message, the good news of God’s love, will really begin to transform our world.