As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved 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. 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, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.
I’d like to speak to you today about friendship.
We just listened to a reading from the Bible in which Jesus speaks to his disciples about friendship. They are gathered together for a meal, the last meal they will share before Jesus’ death, and he wants them to know that he doesn’t think of them as his servants, or even as his disciples (another word for student) anymore. He thinks of them as his friends.
“I call you friends,” he says to them.
I’ll get back to Jesus in a moment, but first let me ask:
Whom do you call friends? To whom are you a friend?
As soon as someone comes into your mind that you consider your friend, raise your hand.
What is it about them that makes them your friend? What kind of friend are they? How did you meet them, what part of your life do you share with them? Do you consider them casual friends or what you might call a “good friend” or even a “best friend.”
What are the experiences that deepen friendship?
Paradoxically, hurting one another can deepen a friendship. Some friendships don’t survive the hurt, but those that do teach us the power of forgiveness and reconciliation.
One of the qualities of a deep friendship is that we know that our friend truly cares for us. It’s about not about what we can do for them, how we entertain them, the things we do together. They simply care, and they have our best interest at heart. And we for them.
This kind of friendship takes time and effort on our part. We need to grow into the kind of person that can offer as well as receive the gift of our full humanity. It puts us on the journey of becoming a person, as Jesus said, that learns to love others as God loves us.
I’d like to tell you about a particular kind of friendship that helped me to grow in love.
When I was a teenager, I was blessed to have several older adults in my life who meant the world to me. One was a teacher, another was the minister in my church, another was a beloved aunt. I looked up to them, admired them, and learned from them. They were the kind of people that I hoped to be like someday. They showed me what it meant to live as someone who loved Jesus and dedicated their life to following his teaching and example.
And at some point in our relationship, they each said to me in one way or another, “I call you friend,” as an acknowledgment that I had grown up, both in age and in my capacity for friendship. They trusted me to care about the things they cared about, and the people they cared about. They knew that I wasn’t perfect and didn’t expect me to be, but nonetheless our relationship had become more mutual–not completely so, for they were always farther along the path of life and faith. Yet their acknowledgement of my friendship was and remains one of the great gifts of my life. I strive to be worthy of their friendship.
Those are the relationships that come to mind when I think of Jesus saying to his disciples, “I call you friends.” They have been together for years, and he shared everything with them. They are not perfect and their relationship isn’t completely mutual, but Jesus is signalling a change because they have changed. They have grown in their capacity to love.
What I want you to leave with is an assurance that Jesus is your life-long friend, who loves you for who you are and will always be with you, no matter what happens. He delights in your company, and wants what is best for you. Now is more than your friend, far more. But friendship is what he longs for–a deep relationship rooted in affection and common understanding of what matters most in life.
If we choose, we can grow in our relationship with Him, as we do with friends who are farther down the road of life and wisdom and compassion, by learning from him, listening to him, and as he said to his first disciples that he called friends, by striving to love other people as he love us and he loves them.
It’s a great thing, truly. It does take effort on our part, as does any friendship that we really care about. I hope you know that Confirmation isn’t the end of your learning and growing in faith, but a new beginning, a new invitation to accept the friendship Jesus offers you and invites you into a life informed by his teachings, values, and presence in your life.
As I pray with and for each of you today, keep in your mind an image of Jesus as your friend who will always be there for you, and who invites you into a relationship of deep friendship.
Here is my invitation and my challenge to all those being confirmed, received or reaffirming your faith, and all standing at your side.
For the month of May, put something near your bed so that when you rise each day, you will be reminded that the Spirit of Jesus lives within you and is with you as your friend.
Take a moment to receive his love and friendship, and then rise to live your day knowing that he is with you. And at the end of each day, before you fall asleep, take a moment to hold the day’s events in light of Jesus’ love and friendship and ask what kind of friend you were.
How might you live today, and all your tomorrows, if you dared to believe that Jesus was at your side, as your friend? How would you live today, and all your tomorrows, knowing that Jesus calls you his friend, and invites you to love other people the way that he loves you and he loves them?
I will do the same, And at the end of May, if you’d like to reflect together on what, if anything shifted in our awareness or experiences as a result, I’d love to hear from you.
We can be friends to one another.
Remember that Jesus needs you, needs all of us. In the words of Teresa of Avila, Jesus has no physical body on this earth but yours. Yours are the hands through which he works, yours are the feet with which he moves, yours are the eyes with which he looks upon this word with kindness and love. He sees you through those us and invites you to see those around us with those same eyes of friendship and love.