Mission Society of the Philippines

Homilies

6th SUNDAY OF EASTER: FRIENDSHIP WITH CHRIST

Jn 15: 9-17


THE DISCOURSE ON the ‘Vine and the Branches’ continues, and in this particular passage, the indwelling or abiding that Jesus asks from his disciples takes a new form. In the previous passage, He says ‘Abide in Me’ or ‘Remain in me.’ But now, He says that we must remain in His love. There are two important things we can take from the gospel for our reflections.

On the one hand, it has been shown by Jesus that one way of abiding in his love is to keep His commandments. He says, “If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love.” Thus, keeping the commandments of God or Christ is an expression of love. Some people have no good regard of commandments or laws. Like for instance, when I asked a young man why he does not always go to Church mass on Sundays, his reply was, “It is just a Church law, and if you don’t follow it, it does not matter.” Certainly, it could be a problem if we think of the Sunday obligation as a mere law. There is something more of the Sunday obligation. It is more than a law; it is more than a commandment. It is more of an expression of our love for God. If we try to regard the Sunday obligation this way, then it makes a difference. We all desire to love God. Yet, this love needs concrete expressions, like following His commandment. And one commandment is to make the days of the Lord holy.

On the other hand, let us try to reflect on the new relationship that Christ has with us. He says, “I no longer call you slaves ….. I have called you friends.” Friendship is one of the cherished human relationships. It is one of the central human experiences and in fact, it has been sanctified by major religions. Some people have even given more importance to friendship that other relationships. An ordinary human friendship has been understood as a relationship which involves mutual knowledge, esteem, affection and respect, along with a degree of rendering service to friends in times of need or crisis. But it appears that there is more we can get in our friendship with Jesus. As the gospel suggests, there are three important aspects of this friendship that Jesus has brought to the fore. 

Firstly, Jesus tells us that friends are worth dying for. He says, “No one has greater love than… to lay down one’s life for his friends.” Ordinary friendship may also have this kind of quality, but not of the same degree as what Jesus did. The obvious element of friendship that we find with Jesus is love, a love that finds its culmination in the self-offering on the cross. The self-giving of Jesus on the cross is an index that He has cared for his friends so much, that He has loved his friends so much. He is very much concerned about the life of his friends that He died so that his friends could live and could experience joy.

Secondly, Jesus tells us that his true friends are those who keep his commandments. He says, “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” And what is His commandment? He says, “This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.” In ordinary friendship, people have some expectations toward another. If a friend is in crisis, one would go to him/her and gives some pieces of advice. The words of Jesus may appear ‘demanding,’ but the command to love is essential in our friendship with Him. God is love and love is God. Jesus is love and love is Jesus. Love is an element which can never be separated from Jesus. Thus, the command to love is necessary in our friendship with him. We can only be regarded as “friends of Jesus’ if we have that love, and if we share that love to others.

Thirdly, Jesus tells us that friends share in the secrets of God. He says, “I call you friends because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.” Ordinary friends share each other’s secrets; secrets that they may have hidden from their parents or siblings. Jesus also shared his secrets (that is, his inner life with the Father) to his disciples whom he considered friends. This is a privilege of the friends of Jesus. Jesus shared to his friends his intimacy with the Father, as well as, the plan of the Father to save us from our sins. If they are not Jesus’ friends, he would not have bothered to tell them. Since we are Jesus’ friends, we also heard and knew those secrets. In ordinary circumstances, listening to other’s secrets gives us delight. This should be the same delight that we must feel once we listen to the word of God. The Word of God must give us delight.

The rest of the “secrets” of Jesus are in the Bible. Thus, if we want to maintain our friendship with Jesus, let us continue to listen to Him through the Word of God. Lasting friendship with Jesus can only be had if we continue to obey and listen to Him through His Word. AMEN.


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