The other morning I was walking out of the lobby after the 8 o’clock Mass and a class of children from Good Shepherd School was ahead of me. It was a beautiful day, sunny and warm, and the teachers were taking the children to the park. The children were holding hands, and one little girl explained that the girl beside her was her friend. Their sweet affection for each other was evident.
Friendship is a subject about which everyone has experience and comments. The brilliant Dominican friar, St. Thomas Aquinas, once said: There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship. From Sacred Scripture to philosophers, scholars, saints and everyday folks, friendship is valued as precious. While the use of the term “best friend” is more common among children and teens, an adult who has a best friend is blessed beyond measure.
In the Gospel of John proclaimed this weekend, Jesus calls us friends. Imagine. He qualifies His use of the noun: You are my friends if you do what I command you. The command of Jesus is that we are to love one another as He has loved us. Further He explains: I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father. Friends do that. They are honest, forthcoming and trusting of one another. They do not rush to judgment. They are patient, loyal and always seek what is best for their friend.
And yet we all know too well that friends also make mistakes, misjudge, speak ill and can be hurtful. Indeed, friendship can be complex and hard work because love is hard work. In fact, love is the work of God for we hear this weekend that: Because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.
If love is of God, than surely forgiveness must also be of God. Because of love, we can forgive. Without love, forgiveness is merely practical and efficient, potentially self-serving and thus, not of God.
In this fast-moving city and time, everyone seeks friendship. It seems authentic friendship can be more elusive then in what are perceived as more simple times. In truth, I do not know. Yet I am certain every soul seeks a soul mate, not just in terms of a life partner, but also in terms of a true friend. For me, the place to start in such a search is in friendship with Jesus. Here one finds the path to authentic love and friendship, and from there the path can open to friendship in
countless ways and places.
Lest we think that each has to “make” this friendship happen, somehow, Jesus clarifies that misconception and self-centered position: It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you.
Sixth Sunday of Easter
May 8/9, 2021
In today’s Gospel, Jesus commands his disciples, whom he calls “friends,” to love one another as he
loves them. Jesus uses the word “love” as a verb or a noun nine times.
He also employs the word “command” or “commandment” five times. His command to
love one another is explicit. Those who understand the depth of Christ’s love
for us have reason to be joyful. We are called to be stewards of this loving
friendship; to love one another as Jesus loves us.
Do we give serious attention to what this love requires of us?
What is the price of this friendship with the Lord?
Are we willing to pay this price to keep Christ’s friendship?