Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Story

By Gretchen Crowder

A couple weeks ago, I was introducing my senior students to Henri Nouwen by showing them a video of one of his sermons. I warned them before we began: “Just so you know, in the 90s, we really liked ferns. I think it’s what we called “creating an atmosphere” back then.” When I pressed play, I think they saw what I meant. The entire stage was covered in ferns. It kind of makes me giggle every time I see it, but it is also strangely disarming! The sermon was entitled “Being the Beloved.” I like to show the students Nouwen speaking because when I listen to him speak, I can feel how much he believes from the depths of his soul what he is sharing with others. In this particular sermon, he delivers one of his most passionate messages in a way that you might just believe it by the end of his sermon if you did not believe it before. Surrounded by big beautiful disarming ferns, Nouwen’s passion almost reaches through the screen as he waves his arms at us saying: “You, me, all of us are the beloved sons and daughters of God!”

Within this particular sermon, he highlights today’s Gospel in which Jesus was tempted in the desert for 40 days. He describes how the devil tried to show Jesus that if only Jesus could demonstrate his power or if only Jesus would accept the devil’s offering of many possessions would others finally see the truth and speak well of him. Nouwen describes how the devil tried valiantly to convince him that this was the only way that he would be loved. Yet Jesus knew that these were lies and remained steadfast in the belief that it was not any of those things that defined his belovedness.

Jesus knew who he was. In fact, when Jesus was baptized, all heard the truth of who he was when “a voice came from the heavens, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased’” (Mt 3: 17). This is the truth that kept Jesus going through all the contradictory experiences of praise and rejection, of celebration and agony.

Henri Nouwen’s underlying purpose of this sermon and many others like it was not for us to realize Jesus’s belovedness, however. Instead, it was for us to realize through Jesus that we, too, are beloved. That no matter what we do, what we own, or what others think of us, our belovedness remains the thread of truth grounding our human experience.

All we have to do is accept it.

And if we do, then when we face our own temptations in our own desert experiences that threaten to upend us, we can rely on this truth to keep us standing on solid ground.

So, what gets in the way of us accepting our belovedness like Jesus accepted his? Is it because we have not heard a voice from the heavens shouting it for all to hear? Or is it because the voice of God is being blocked out by our disordered attachments – those things like what we do, what we own, or what others think about us?

Let us spend this week reflecting on our disordered attachments so that once we identify them, we can release our hold on them and open ourselves up to believing that you, me, all of us are indeed the beloved sons and daughters of God!

Suggestion for Prayer 

Pray with this video Examen based on the First Principle and Foundation of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius throughout this week. Consider journaling what comes to the surface as you pray with it, and revisit what you have written throughout the week to see what new insights come with time. Feel free to pause if you need more time to consider each question as it is offered.

 

Gretchen Crowder

Gretchen Crowder wrote Leaning into our Belovedness, an introduction to her theme this Lent. Full of inspiration and prayer suggestions, you can download it as a PDF to pray with throughout the Lenten season. Gretchen is a campus minister and educator at Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas, as well as a writer, retreat director and podcaster. You can find her at gretchencrowder.com and on Loved As You Are: An Ignatian Podcast, available anywhere you get your podcasts.