We don’t hear much of what God (as Father) has to say in the gospels. He does say to Jesus “You are my beloved”, and then Jesus says to us “as the Father loves me so I love you”, so Jesus had the clear intention that we would know ourselves as “beloved”.
It is for us to hear this one voice above all the other voices that crowd our minds – all with the same basic message “Prove yourself. You are guilty until proved innocent” – so we try to prove ourselves through our image, through our hard work – and still those voices refuse to believe us, perhaps because in all our hearts of hearst we know that we are guilty. There’s always something of ourselves we need to hide away. “If they knew what I was really like they would never love me” – and so we bury our shame.
There is a beautiful story in Genesis of Adam hiding his shame. But God searches out Adam and his shame – and in the lovely story of the return of the prodigal the father embraces the shame of his son. (The picture is from the Poor Clare Colettine Community at Hawarden and shows the embrace of the prodigal)
When Jesus says “I love you” he means us to to know that God loves us. He knows that we all have a dark place in which we hide our shame. We do not have to prove ourselves before God loves us.
Henri Nouwen wrote of “being the beloved” and claimed that the greatest temptation is “self-rejection”, the flip side of which is “arrogance”. He wrote:
Both self-rejection and arrogance pull us out of the common reality of existence and make a gentle community of people extremely difficult, if not impossible, to attain.
This video is worth a watch/listen – a sermon from Henri Nouwen.