The Priceless Human Gift.....friendship!
The Homily for today- by Fr. Joel Macul
Acts 10: 25–26, 34–35, 44–48
1 John 4:7–10
One of the most priceless human gifts is friendship. It allows us to disclose ourselves to and receive from another in complete openness and trust. We can think aloud before a friend; with a friend we can participate in one another’s joys and sorrows, hopes and fears. A friend allows us to survive loneliness, indifference, hostility. Before a friend we can make a mistake and not be shamed; we can be accepted for who we are. With a friend we can always be beautiful in our inner core. With a friend in good times and bad the friend is there.
Today Jesus invokes this precious relationship between human beings. He draws on the wisdom tradition that sings the praises of a true friend. He stands in the tradition that recognized in Abraham and Moses men who were friends of God—two who walked with God, who spoke with God as one speaks with a friend. Today we hear Jesus name his disciples “my friends.” A clear hint at how he related to his disciples—not servants but friends with whom he could share everything.
In John’s gospel we have been introduced to friends of Jesus along the way. John the Baptist is the called “the friend of the bridegroom.” Then there is the family at Bethany, Martha, Mary and Lazarus. Jesus did more than pass by for the occasional meal. No, they were the friends of Jesus—he could banter with them, and for Lazarus, he would weep and then call him forth from the grave because that is what a friend does, stands with the other in death and calls them forth again into the light and lets them go free.
At the heart of friendship is love. Today we hear Jesus wanting to draw his disciples into his experience of love. He wants to give them his gift of love. He wants to draw them into a circle of friendship, a circle of love. In friendship, the focus is on the other, not to get something from them not to receive from them, but to give to them, to be for them. For Jesus, loving begins with the Father. He says it over and over: I remain in my Father’s love. The Father loves me and so I am not alone even if it looks like I am alone.
How does Jesus know he is in the Father’s love? Because he keeps the Father’s commandment to love. And that commandment is that Jesus is the one Father sends into the world so that the world may have life to the full. God loved the world so much, he sent his only Son. God loved the world so he sent his most precious and only relationship into the world. Jesus obeys the Father’s desire to send his love into the world and give it a human face. Jesus obeys the Father’s will that sends him into the world to love the world, to give his very flesh for the life of the world.
There are two qualities to this loving way of Jesus and the Father. One is that love lays down its life for its friends. Jesus will lay down his life for his disciple-friends. He will hold nothing back for them. He will love them to the end,, love them to death. The other quality is a hallmark of friendship: friends share their thoughts and heart with one another. So Jesus shares the Father’s love with his disciples. Jesus keeps no secret. What the Father has told Jesus when he was in his bosom, he has shared with his disciples. What good works Jesus has done come from his Father and have been done in front of his disciples. What they see and hear in and from Jesus is in reality what and who the Father is. The loving that has been going on between Jesus and the Father, Jesus is now sharing with his befriended disciples. Jesus cannot keep it to himself. The love he knows has become his commandment, his motivation, what moves him to act and so he must love his own in this world. He knows the Father’s love and so he must love.
If Jesus is to love completely and be the Father’s love in the world, then he must die for the ones he and the Father love. He must lay down his life for his friends. His love must be total, no holding back. So Jesus comes to understand that his dying is in reality not an empty death; he is not just another victim unjustly caught in the web of violence. No, his dying is a choice; I choose to lay down my life, he says. My love is freely given, not pulled out of me. God is love we heard in John’s first letter. If God is love, then he chooses to love in and through his Son. And his Son chooses to love by embracing a death that is violent, unjust and humanly cruel. God’s love is revealed by sending his Son to embrace our world of sin. In embracing it, his love breaks its power and releases us from sin’s claim on us. Only a love that will join us in death is a love that can gift us with freedom. We usually hold back when we love, we keep something for ourselves. Not Jesus with us his friends; he walks with us all the way.
There is a chain of love being proclaimed today. It is being proclaimed as the heart and mystery of the one we so easily call God and whom Jesus called Father because all he is comes from him. The chain of love begins with the Father whose name we heard is love. This love is poured into the Son who activates it and makes it real before our very eyes by laying down his life for those from whom life has slipped away. But before Jesus enters into this laying down of his life on the cross, he shares that mystery of love with his new friends. He calls his disciples into that circle of love since they are the ones he is dying for. For you I am dying, he says; receive this love as new life. If you accept my love for you, then you will know that you too must love the same way. My loving you unto death becomes a command for you to do the same for one another. What Jesus commands us to do is what we saw on Holy Thursday. He, the master, washed our feet. Oh yes, we protested…..we did want him to touch our feet. Accepting love is hard. But if we will not let him wash our feet, if we will not accept his dying for us, then we have no part with him. Obeying the command to love begins by accepting love.
Jesus is talking to us today. He says, I learned loving from my father; it means dying for those he and I love; now you learn loving from me and exercise that love toward one another. Dying means giving all to the very end. Now each of you must give your all for one another. When others see that way of giving all to one another, without limit, then will the face of the Father, the God of love, be alive in his world. Then will the chain of love become the thread that binds all together. Then will the divisions and boundaries in this world break down; then will heaven and earth not be strangers to one another but be friends who know what it is to be loved and so love without bounds and follow the lead of the Spirit who holds all things in One. God’s love is without limit, it embraces all. His command to us: grounded in that limitless love we do the same.