'I have called you friends'.
So says Jesus to the disciples in St. John's Gospel. Friends share a special level of intimacy and closeness and this was true of Jesus and the twelve. Today's gospel is one of the discourses recorded by John. Here as narrator he switches to the first person. Jesus speaks as 'I' to his disciples and by extension to us. Scholars have long debated the significance of the discourses in John especially as they are not found in the other three Gospels. They seem to have come to us via a long period of prayerful reflection and experience in the community to which John belonged. That they belong to that time of close intimacy between Jesus and the disciples is suggested by the fact that we read them in Passiontide and Easter. There are elements of explanation, handing over and comfort contained in Jesus' teaching. It belongs to the beginnings of the Church but also to us as the inheritors of that tradition.
- The key word is love. It is love that links the Father and the Son with the disciples who are to abide or live in that love. Such love is dynamic and interactive, by no means a static thing.
- We can be part of it because God in Christ has loved us and by the keeping of his commandments. Jesus sums up his commandments, 'This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.'
- It is a commandment that has already been obeyed and enacted in the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. 'No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends'.
- Before his betrayal and death on the cross, in the recalling of Jesus' words after Easter it is possible to speak of the joy that is Jesus' gift to us even in the midst of adversity. He tells us of the love that creates deep bonds between God and us so that 'my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.'
- That we are his friends lies at the core of Jesus' teaching. Our relationship with God is not that of slaves to a tyrannical monster but rather one of closeness and intimacy, one of profound love. It is a friendship based on knowledge. 'I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.' We don't know everything there is to know about God or his creation but we do know what he is like. Jesus is his likeness, namely sacrificial love.
- As I have said these great words belong to the very birth and foundation of the Christian Church. They are words of commission as well as description. The love of God is active and ongoing. Christian ministry is never particularly easy. We can feel unworthy of the task and uncertain of the outcome in an age that looks for instant results. When we feel like that then we only need to recall Jesus' word to regain a true perspective. 'You did not chose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit that will last.' To know that God, chooses us as his friends, in his love and that our Christian lives will bear fruit, is to begin to see things totally differently.
- Prayer is the key to our receiving of this Gospel. Jesus' words are his prayer for us. His relationship with his father can be described as one of prayer. In prayer we will be given the grace to receive the gospel, to know its truth for ourselves, and to carry out our own life of discipleship. When we pray we do so in the knowledge that 'the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name'.
In his name we ask that we may grow in love and joy, knowing ourselves to be his chosen friends, in trust that what we begin in faith he will bring to fruition.
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Last updated 24/05/2003 21:00:00 Author: Fr David Shepherd