The Friendship of Christ
Date Published: May 9, 2015
Gospel Reflection on the Fifth Sunday of Easter
Gospel Reading: JN 15:9-17
In the Gospel reading, Jesus gives us a new commandment. This is the commandment of love. Jesus loved us first, he chose us first. Thus the initiative of love coming from Christ makes us all his friends. What is friendship in Jesus? Today, we have a lot of understanding of friendship: there is a kind of pragmatic friendship which is so widespread – “I am only so close to you when I need something”. This kind of friendship maintained by constant dependence and an attitude of need to be needed. Some would call it “FB” (friends with benefits) or friendship with strings attached. Unfortunately, most people are trapped in this kind of relationship. Thinking that love is equated with practical dependence or even with “parasiting” oneself is not love at all. This kind of love which cements our friendship hence is not friendship at all.
Jesus’ friendship is liberating; it is freeing us from a trap. He chose us by loving us by means of, first, dying for us – “there is no greater love than to lay down your life for a friend”. He chose us not telling us to love him because we owe something to him. Because, even we owe something big from God and yet our whole self cannot pay that debt, Jesus did not use it to demand from us to love him. He chose us first and in that kind of invitation we can say still “no”; we are free to refuse. But, who can still be so foolish to say “no” when God offered himself to us? He loved us not because he needs love. He loves us to teach us how to love others. Thus he said: “Love one another, as I have loved you.” God loves us no matter who we are and what have made out of ourselves. But that love invites us to transform our love to be like how he loves us in order to share it to others.
Why there is an imperative feel in the words of invitation of Jesus and in his first calling us to love? When he calls us to love, and hence, calls us to friendship, Jesus is actually calling us to freedom. The new commandment of love which makes us his friends elevates us to be free people. Before we were called to his friendship, “were at that time without Christ, alienated from the community of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, without hope and without God in the world” (Eph 2:12). Those who are separated from Christ are slaves to sin and therefore, we do not possess hope. Those who are trapped in the sinfulness of our old self is a constant turning away from God; it is a life without hope. Friendship in Christ brings hope in our hearts because the love of Christ allows us to know Jesus. Pope Benedict XVI said once: “To come to know God-the true God-means to receive hope” (Spe Salvi 3). Let us therefore be opened to the invitation of Jesus to be his friend so that, in the grace of his friendship, we will be lifted up to freedom from sin and thus, we will restore the Christian hope.
May we always see the friendship of Jesus, a liberation from our sinfulness. And may this liberation bring us hope. This hope will bring us back to hold on in faith to Jesus. (Ric, OSA)