What does it mean to be God‘s beloved?
I think this is a hard question to answer because many of us are constantly struggling to really know who we are and to have the true understanding of our self-worth. It is hard because many of us are trying to gain the approval and acceptance of everyone else except God. It is tiring because we are trying to be someone else instead of being who God says we are! Hence, what seems to be so simple, personal, heartfelt, and easy to get often becomes the hardest, most-rejected, easily-dismissed, and forgotten reality because we are scared of letting go, knowing, and becoming who we truly are called to be in His eyes.
When Jesus transfigured (cf. Matthew 17:1–8, Mark 9:2–8, Luke 9:28–36), He wanted to show us the twofold reality of who He truly is and who we really are if we imitate, emulate, and live as He lived. So, there are two questions that we need to ask ourselves:
- Are we willing to be God’s beloved sons and daughters in whom He is well pleased or are we trying too hard to be someone else?
- Can people listen, see, and recognize the presence of God in us when we speak, act, and live our lives or are we trying too hard to make our ego-centered noises vocal, overwhelming, and suppressive?
In his book, The Return of the Prodigal Son, Fr. Henri Nouwen stated the short, simple, but profound truth: “I am the prodigal son every time I search for unconditional love where it cannot be found.” Hence, our faith shows us that to love is to reflect the loving heart of God who waits for us to return back to His love, whether we are the younger son who went away or the older one who never knew of his father’s heart. Later in the book, Fr. Nouwen also invited us who were once prodigal to make a leap of faith with our own heart of gratitude to extend that same loving forgiveness toward those who are dear to us: “To write a gentle letter to someone who will not forgive me, make a call to someone who has rejected me, speak a word of healing to someone who cannot do the same.”
In a similar way, the second half of the Book of Genesis tells us the story of Abraham and his divine calling from the Almighty. He had to learn what it meant to be chosen and received the call from the Lord. Yes, he was not perfect, and he did many cowardice and unkind things to preserve himself at times, but throughout his journey, he had to learn to trust the Lord who directed him from his own homeland to a land that he did not know. That is radical trust, but it is also the most basic foundation of our Judeo-Christian monotheistic faith!
Furthermore, St. Paul in his letters often asked the early believers — as well as us — to mindfully bear our share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God. He called us to live a holy life according to the pattern and way of life of our Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, it is important for us to remember that the word “grace” in the New Testament is not just a thing, independent and by itself, for it is the manifestation of God‘s love to strengthen us so we can properly and fully engage in our relationship with Him. To be full of grace is to be full of God‘s love, which in turn makes us lovable and able to radiate His love through our relationship with the divine.
Jesus‘ own Transfiguration gives us the twofold reminder of who He is as God‘s beloved Son and who we are (by grace and through the redemptive and salvific adoption) as members of Christ’s Mystical Body, the Church. We can only be true children of God in words and actions, life and deeds, when we learn, imitate, and emulate as to become more like the Son of God.
Hence, in order for us to learn how to be true sons and daughters of God, our Heavenly Father, we have to become like Christ in all things. His Transfiguration is historically and providentially planned to happen before the Paschal Mystery — the Suffering, Death, and Resurrection of Christ — to affirm to us, as well as the original disciples, that we, too, have to undergo the Way of the Cross before realizing our true glory, just as the Savior has shown us the way through His own personal embrace of the Cross and its sufferings.
We have become prodigals and unhappy people when we search for the false goods, idols, and short-lived pleasures of this world. We are homeless when we try to find temporary lodging and resting places other than our true home with the Father who loves us, the Savior who redeemed us, and the Holy Spirit who guides us back when we are lost. We are prodigal sons and daughters when we try to search for false, conditional, shallow, and humanistic love instead of the everlasting, life-giving, and eternal love of God.
So, let us ask ourselves again… Who are we? Are we willing to be His beloved children or someone else?