6th Easter Sunday – Year B – The Cost of Friendship!
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Bottom Line: Yes, God loves and accepts us as we are, but God loves us too much to leave us as we are. We love babies as they are, yet we want them to grow up. God expects us, similarly, to grow in His love. The Lord’s offer to us of friendship and intimacy with him should not be an excuse for callousness and indifference. Just as God showed His love for us in deed by sending his Son to die for us, so is true love for God always shown in deed by the way we keep the twin commandments of love of God and neighbor.
Father Martino Nguyễn Bá Thông (Saint Anne Catholic Church – Columbus, GA)
6th EASTER -Year B (2009)
Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-485
1 John 4:7-10
The Cost of “Friendship!”
I once met a man who told me he had declared war on his pastor (not Fr. Schreck!) because he allows people to receive communion in the hand standing rather than on the tongue kneeling. “They are denying the real presence,” he argued, “If they knew that they are actually receiving Christ, they would kneel to receive.” In reply I asked him a revealing question, “What would you do if Jesus appeared to you?”
“Oh!” he replied, “I would immediately fall on my knees.”
“Good,” I said, “But there are people who would simply throw themselves on him out of sheer joy and love for him. Would you say that such people are irreverent?” He kept quiet for a moment as he began to see that it was probably less a question of discerning the presence of Christ in the Eucharist and more a question of one’s personal relationship and faith approach to Jesus.
Today’s gospel gives us two models of personal relationship to Jesus: as a servant (in Greek doulos means “slave”) or as a friend. At any given point in our faith journey one of these two models is predominant. Either we see our relationship to Christ mainly in terms of master-servant or in terms of friend-friend. With the exception of mystics, traditional lay spirituality in the church has followed the master-servant model. Jesus is seen more as a master to be feared, respected and obeyed than as a friend to love in intimacy and familiarity. Today’s gospel challenges us to rethink our relationship with Christ because, evidently, Christ himself prefers to relate with his disciples as friend to friend rather than as master to servant: “I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends” (John 15:15).
Jesus says that he would no longer call his disciples servants. This seems to indicate that he called them servants until then. Our relationship with Christ goes through different stages. First it starts off as a master-servant relationship when we are new to the faith, but then as our relationship with Christ deepens it changes into a less formal friend-friend type of relationship. Why, then, do so many of us stick to the master-servant way of relating to Christ as if it were the only way? Today’s gospel is a call for us to move beyond the infant stage, the servant-master relationship, and go over to the adult stage, the friend-friend way of relating to Christ. This will change the way we pray and the way we live. We shall begin to pray better (John 15:7) and to experience more peace and joy into our lives, as people do who are in love.
One objection that is often raised by those who promote the master-servant model of relating to Christ is the concern that we are unworthy. Sure enough, we are not worthy. But Jesus has already taken that into consideration. He reminds us that “You did not choose me but I chose you” (John 15:16). If he has decided to choose us in our unworthiness and to love and accept us as we are, then we should not fix our gaze on ourselves and ask, “Who am I, Lord, that you should love me?” Rather we should fix our gaze on him and ask, “Who are you, Lord, that you love me so?”
How can we tell the difference between the irreverence and disrespect shown by those who have no serious relationship with the Lord and true familiarity which grows out of a loving relationship with Him?
The key is keeping the Lord’s commandments. Yes, God loves and accepts us as we are, but God loves us too much to leave us as we are. We love babies as they are, yet we want them to grow up. God expects us, similarly, to grow in His love. The Lord’s offer to us of friendship and intimacy with him should not be an excuse for callousness and indifference. Just as God showed His love for us in deed by sending his Son to die for us, so is true love for God always shown in deed by the way we keep the twin commandments of love of God and neighbor. By this we can know if we are truly Christ’s friends, because, “You are my friends [only] if you do what I command you” (John 15: 14).
Father Martino Nguyen Ba Thong