Today’s gospel reading (Matthew 3:13-17) describes the baptism of Jesus in which our Lord comes up out of the water and hears a voice that says, ““This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (v. 17) For many years now, I have not been able to read this passage without thinking of Henri Nouwen and what it means for us to understand ourselves as the “beloved” of God:
Let me start by telling you that many of the people that I live with hear voices that tell them that they are no good, that they are a problem, that they are a burden, that they are a failure. They hear a voice that keeps saying, “If you want to be loved, you had better prove that you are worth loving. You must show it.”
But what I would like to say is that the spiritual life is a life in which you gradually learn to listen to a voice that says something else, that says, “You are the beloved and on you my favor rests.”
You are the beloved and on you my favor rests.
Jesus heard that voice. He heard that voice when He came out of the Jordan River. I want you to hear that voice, too. It is a very important voice that says, “You are my beloved son; you are my beloved daughter. I love you with an everlasting love. I have molded you together in the depths of the earth. I have knitted you in your mother’s womb. I’ve written your name in the palm of my hand and I hold you safe in the shade of my embrace. I hold you. You belong to Me and I belong to you. You are safe where I am. Don’t be afraid. Trust that you are the beloved. That is who you truly are.”
I want you to hear that voice. It is not a very loud voice because it is an intimate voice. It comes from a very deep place. It is soft and gentle. I want you to gradually hear that voice. We both have to hear that voice and to claim for ourselves that that voice speaks the truth, our truth. It tells us who we are. That is where the spiritual life starts — by claiming the voice that calls us the beloved.
Henri Nouwen, The Life of the Beloved
May we hear that voice today. And through us, may others come to know that they’re beloved, too.