Gospel Story of the Week
The Transfiguration of Jesus – Matthew 17: 1-9
“While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the beloved; with him I am well pleased.” (Matt 17: 5)
Reflection on the Gospel
The vision unfolds quickly, and a voice from the cloud reveals Jesus’ identity as the beloved Son. The vision is a strong parallel to Jesus’ baptism, yet this time it is witnessed by the three disciples. In addition to conveying Jesus’ identity as the beloved Son, this powerful revelation indicates God’s delight with him.
As our Lenten journey continues, we are urged to connect with how deeply we long for the same affirmation – to be God’s beloved and to find favor in God’s eyes. As I reflect on this longing, I am confronted by a painful inner conflict. My longing to be loved is met with a nagging fear that I don’t measure up, that I’m not worthy of love. When I’m in the grip of that fear, I feel deeply flawed and believe that there is something wrong with me.
The late actor Anthony Quinn recounts his struggle with this type of inner conflict in his self-portrait, The Original Sin. At the height of his success as an actor – after he had won two academy awards – he is deeply conflicted and struggles with love. “To give love and to accept love unconditionally – that to me is the highest goal. To be unable to love unconditionally – that to me is the original sin, the one that engenders all others.”
Quinn’s inner struggle is so intense that he is haunted by an imaginary 10-year-old boy who appears to him and taunts him. Nothing Quinn does is good enough to satisfy the kid. Whenever Quinn tries to accept love, the boy appears to tell him he is unworthy of it. Whenever he tries to claim happiness, his inner assassin recites a litany of reasons why he doesn’t deserve it. Like Quinn, many of us have an inner assassin – a nagging inner voice that refuses to leave us alone. Our self-doubt and self-hate reveal themselves in this voice as it belittles our achievements and sabotages our happiness. This persistent voice of self-doubt is an inner assassin that tries to cripple us with poisonous self-talk whenever we feel good about ourselves.
God embraces our inner assassin with a startling message: “I love you just as you are – with no strings attached, without condition or limit.” In his book Life of the Beloved, Henri Nouwen states it emphatically: “My only desire is to make these words reverberate in every corner of your being – ‘you are the beloved.’”
Sometimes the inner assassin is shouting so loudly that it drowns out this voice of God’s embracing love. How can we possibly trust that God loves us just as we are? It seems too good to be true. Our gut instinct is that there has to be a catch, that we can’t possibly be God’s beloved.
During these days of Lent, we are called to trust God’s unconditional love enough to open ourselves and receive it with outstretched arms. Ultimately, each of us is called to trust the subtle voice of God’s love rather than the demeaning whispers of our inner assassin.
Questions for Reflection
- Have you ever experienced the inner assassin, poisonous self-talk that tries to cripple you?
- If so, what was that experience like for you?
- How do you cope with your inner assassin?
- How can you begin to open yourself to the voice of God’s love embracing as the beloved?
Invitation to Prayer
Wonderful God, touch me in my heart of hearts . . . Give me the courage to trust that you love me without condition or limit. Let those words become a profound awareness that permeates every fiber of my being. Help me turn away from the toxic words of my inner assassin and tune in to the voice of your unconditional love. Gift me with healing and redemption so that I may live confidently as your beloved.