6th Sunday of Easter (1 Jn 4:7-10; Jn 15:9-17) “Friendship with Christ” PDF Version
Homily for the 6thSunday of Easter, Year B (2018): 1 Jn 4:7-10; Jn 15:9-17
As the Last Supper was drawing to its conclusion, Our Lord speaks of Apostles with an expression that we hold to be true and essential among human relationships: He calls them His friends.
Now there is a danger that this expression of intimacy can be quickly passed over in the reading of the Gospels and forgotten among the copious stories and teachings that Jesus gave us before His Ascension into heaven.
True, we speak of Jesus as Lord and Master, recognizing how infinitely small we are compared to Him and how without His grace we can accomplish nothing.
We also speak of Jesus as Saviour and Redeemer, acknowledging that we would be forever lost to sin and death was it not for the total outpouring of His love upon the Cross.
We further speak of Jesus as teacher and guide, seeing in Him the Way, the Truth and the Life, the source of all wisdom and the one who will teach how to love one another as He has loved us.
Thus, we speak of Christ through the many titles and attributes that help us understand more fully the mystery of He who is the Son of God made man.
But how often do we think of Jesus as our friend? Now one must be careful to not think of friendship with Jesus in terms of merely human friendship. We must also hold in tension the reality that Jesus is our friend but also our Lord and God, and so we cannot fail to continually show Him respect and deference, lest we begin to think of Jesus as we would our earthly friends and neglect to show Him the honour that is His due.
But we nonetheless are called to friendship with Christ, a friendship similar to what the Apostles knew in those 3 years they daily walked with Christ and worked with Him to announce the coming of God’s Kingdom.
We might ask then is there any conditions attached to this friendship with Christ? Will He be our friend no matter what? Must we do anything to maintain this friendship with He who is also our Lord and God? Jesus provides us with the answer to these questions in today’s Gospel reading: “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” The promise of intimacy with Jesus through friendship is very much conditional because it can only be fulfilled if we commit ourselves to his teaching and to love one another as He has loved us.
To be a friend of Christ is to follow His teachings. This will entail our willingness to embrace all that He taught us, both what is revealed in the Holy Scripture and all of the teachings that have been passed down to us through the centuries by teaching authority of Christ’s Holy Church.
Notice too that Jesus does not say we are to allowed to pick and choose which teachings we want to embrace and follow. He offers us an all or nothing choice to accept what He and His Church teaches as a condition to maintaining true and meaningful friendship with Him. This is certainly no easy task! I would venture to guess that we all struggle to embrace the fullness of Christ and His Church’s teachings. Many of them inspire us and bring us joy, while others profoundly challenge us and we may have made the conscious choice to reject them.
Our Lord allows us the personal freedom to accept or reject in part or in full what He and His Church continue to teach us as the necessary means to obtain eternal life. But their full acceptance constitute what will allow us to have true friendship with the Lord. Hence, it may be that for many of us we have felt a strained friendship with Christ and did not realize that this is in part because our own decision not to fully abide in His teachings.
I would invite each of us to consider this matter with our Lord, considering what is standing between He and us and our opportunity for true friendship with Him.
Our Lord reveals that friendship with Him is discovered in our willingness to love one another as He has loved us, be it the greatest love of all in laying down our lives for one another if God was to ask this supreme sacrifice of us, to those smaller though no less important acts of love that form the bonds of friendship and intimacy with one another.
St John the Evangelist, writing in the final years of his life after living to be more than 100 years old, reminded the First Christians that “God is Love.” In making this statement, “St John revealed that God exists in an eternal act of love, with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit giving themselves to one another in an everlasting embrace. This love of the Trinity which has its eternal source in the Father, spills over into history through the sacrificial love of the Son and the sanctifying love of the Spirit. Thus, for St John, we can be sure that God lives in us if we love others as God loves- genuinely, sacrificially, unconditionally. In this way, God’s Trinitarian love is reflected on earth as it is in heaven.”
Our friendship with Christ will then be shown if we love others with these three qualities of divine Love: That it is genuine, sacrificial and unconditional. I invite us all then to once again turn to God in prayer to reflect on how often our love for others embodies these three qualities: is our love genuine and true, and not merely something we do to get something from another, is our love sacrificial, meaning we will pour out ourselves to improve the lives of those around us, and is our love unconditional, meaning we will love others even and especially when they do not love us in return, with no strings or conditions attached to our willingness to love.
My friends in Christ, if we follow Our Lord’s teachings and love one another as He loved us, then we will know friendship with Him, a friendship that far excels any human friendship and one that will sustain us onto everlasting life in heaven.
First Letter of St. John, Ignatius Study Bible. Pg. 473.