VI EASTER SEASON – B Acts 10:25-26; 34-35; 44-48; Psalm 98; 1 Jn 4:7-10; Jn 15:9-17 HOMILY – May 8, 2021 Rev. Father Gianni Passarella
In today’s Gospel passage Jesus calls us his friends and gives us four signs or proofs of the friendship. Two signs or proofs of the friendship are on his side and two are on ours. This beautiful passage is indeed perfectly balanced. So today I would like to talk about friendship according to the Gospel.
As I said, two proofs of the friendship come from his side: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” That's the first proof of the friendship. Jesus says this on Thursday night when the disciples cannot really understand what he is talking about because they don't know that within hours Jesus will be arrested. They have to wait until later to understand what Jesus means. But at this point, he still makes the promise to them: He says, “I’m your friend.” The proof is “what I do for you.” I think we use that ancient proof all the time. We test a friend by what he does for us. That’s how you know a friend. You know a friend by what they do for you. Jesus makes his proof of friendship an event that happens—his own death for all of us, you and me. Jesus says, “That’s what friendship is, and that’s how you know I am your friend.” Jesus did that for us, and that is the first proof of his friendship.
The second proof of friendship from Jesus’ side is an expansion of the first—I mean, of the same principle. Jesus says: “I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.” A friend is someone who takes you into their confidence, who shares with you. That is another ancient proof of friendship. Jesus says to us, “You are my friends, and the proof of it is I take you into my confidence. I chose you. I saw you and I wanted to walk with you.” Yes, the Lord gives also that proof to us. Have you ever thought that God wants you here because he wants to share his own eternal life with us? He chose us to be with him and he wants us to know about him as much as we can. Try to think about it. It is so powerful!
There are also two proofs of friendship from our side. The first one almost shocked me when I first read it in the Seminary, because it doesn’t seem like friendship. Listen to it: “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” I remember thinking like, “Oh, Jesus, I love what you were doing up to that point, and then you ruined it!” I will be honest, I was disappointed. I mean, were you not disappointed if you heard: “You are my friends if you just say Yes all the time. Then you can be my friend.” I have actually heard messages on this passage where it is taught as an obedience lesson with Jesus saying that in order to be his friend you have to obey all his commandments. It is impossible, we are sinners. Does that mean no one can be his friend? When I looked closely at the text, I realized this was not a general passage on obedience. Jesus is not teaching obedience here. Jesus is teaching friendship here, and he has only one command. Please, don’t misunderstand me. Jesus does want us to obey his commandments, but here he is not talking about obedience. He is not making that the test or the proof of friendship. Let us look closely at the context. “This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.” Jesus has one command in mind in this passage, that we love one another as he loves us. And at the end of the passage he repeats it again. It is like: “Did you miss my commandment? The commandment I have in mind is that you love one another.” That’s how you prove your friendship with me. This is a friendship passage, and Jesus here has one command to prove the friendship. When you love each other as I loved you – Jesus says – then you prove you are my friend.
The final proof of friendship is the sign of prayer. Jesus says, “The Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.” That is the flip side of “I take you into my confidence.” Jesus says: “If you want to be my friend, take me into your confidence.” Pray! The invitation to prayer is the final proof. Have you ever thought of your prayer as proof of your friendship with Jesus? Let us pray. Let’s ask favors. Jesus says: “Use my name with the Father.” That’s exactly what the text says. You can ask the Father using Jesus name. That is actually something a friend can do. I was reading an article the other day. It said that about 70 percent of boys and girls get their first job in Italy through a friend of their father. Well, somehow Jesus Christ plays that role with us. And since we are invited to pray, may our collective prayer today be one of asking for a special intention on this Mother’s Day, for all of our mothers and those special other people in our lives that have shown us motherly love and care, as true friends according to the Gospel. And this, my brothers and sisters, is the Gospel of the Lord.