This is a reflection I wrote on the Gospel to be given at my home parish during a communion service. It is my first attempt at a true reflection on scripture. I enjoyed this quite a bit and hope with much more training to develop something like this into a homily. Enjoy.
St. Martin de Porres Catholic Church
Friday, May 27, 2011
Fifth Week of Easter
Gospel Reading from John 15: 12-17
“I no longer call you slaves…I have called you friends”
In today’s Gospel, Jesus, speaking to His disciples, calls them friends. Not slaves, not servants, not students, but friends. Of course, the disciples are all of these things, since they call Jesus the corresponding positions of authority. As we heard on Easter, Mary Magdalene as soon as she recognizes Jesus calls out to him, “Rabboni” or teacher. In Matthews Gospel after Jesus asks the disciples, “who do you say that I am,” Peter responds “you are the Christ” to which we might add, and we are your servants. And in light of this revelation that Jesus is the Christ, Paul designates himself, “a slave of Christ Jesus” the Lord in the beginning of Romans. All of these things, Jesus could have called them, but he didn’t. Jesus calls them friends. What does this mean? What does it mean for the one who will come down to Judge the earth as the strong right arm of God to call His disciples His friends?
He tells the disciples in three succinct points. First, and most clearly, they must keep His commandments. “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” And “This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.” I need not dwell here, for it is clear enough that friendship with God includes a going forth, a being sent, a call to action, a call to love one’s neighbor. Second, He tells them, “I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.” Having been told everything, entails that the disciples have heard everything. Thus, I might add the corollary that they are friends of Christ because they have heard everything that Jesus heard from the Father. Third, “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you.” The disciples are friends of Christ because He called them to be so. It is not we who have loved God, but He who has loved us.
The trouble though with these points is noticing the order in which Christ presents them: (1) keep His commandments, (2) having been revealed everything about the Father, and (3) being chosen by Jesus. It is all too tempting to misunderstand this order as an order of importance. How often do we busy ourselves trying to do the work of the Lord, while neglecting our own personal relationship with God, our own personal friendship with Christ? How often do we come to serve the Lord in our many and varied ministries, yet fail to remember the original call that moved us to such an act of charity?
It is safe to say that in this particular case, Jesus has ordered according to that principle whereby one saves the best for last. It is important to keep His commandments, laying down our lives for our fellow man, so as to reveal to others the saving power of Christ Jesus in true and genuine Christian charity. This is reflected in the strong tradition of social justice within the Church. But such acts of charity, such good fruits in the Lords vineyard, are a result of a strong faith life lived out in quite and contemplative prayer over God’s Word, the Lord Jesus Christ. It is here that our friendship with Christ is fostered, grown and deepened. We are friends with Christ because He has revealed everything which the Father has revealed to Him. In fact, Jesus is the revelation of the Father, the Word of the Father, the Word who became flesh, a brother to us men. It is only when we listen to this Word in the silence of our hearts, that the Lord can teach us wisdom, from which come peace and every good work. If we think of these acts of charity, the following of God’s commandments, as gifts to the one who has called us His friend, then greater knowledge, greater intimacy with such a friend, would only make these gifts greater, more abundant, and ultimately more meaningful. It is only through spending time with the Word, with our friend Jesus Christ, that we will grow in intimacy.
But even this falls short of the greatest love, the greatest and most fundamental reason why Jesus can and does call us His friends: He has chosen us to be His friends. It is Jesus Christ who “appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whenever you ask the Father in my name He may give you.” The works that we perform in the cooperation with God’s grace discerned and revealed to us in the Word of God are only given because we have been chosen. “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you.” We do not seek God for aid and upon the reception of such aid go forth and do the good work. Rather we ask, but only after realizing that it was God who first moved us to ask for such a gift; every cooperation in God’s grace is only accomplished because the grace of God has first inclined the will to do so. In other words, God not only fills the tank with gas, but starts the car and revs the engine for us. It is here that we rejoice in God and give Him thanks for having made us worthy to share the lot of the saints in Christ. As Paul says in the beginning of His letter to the Ephesians: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him.”