by f. Luis CASASUS, General Superior of the Idente Missionaries.
Europe, May 09, 2021. | Sixth Sunday of Easter.
Acts of the Apostles 10: 25-26.34-35.44-48; 1 John 4: 7-10; Saint John 15: 9-17.
In view of Jesus’ statement in today’s Gospel: I have called you friends, one should reflect on the true meaning of friendship since Christ himself lived as a friend of many people: Martha, Mary, Lazarus, etc. He even calls Judas “friend” when the false disciple was coming to the Garden of Gethsemane to betray.
C.S. Lewis said that friendship is unnecessary with a touch of British humor, like philosophy, like art. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.
Friendship is not a superficial trait or an occasional relationship, in fact, our Founder, Fernando Rielo, says that when we refer to the human person, his or her highest rank of personhood is to be conscious of being someone’s father or mother, someone’s son or daughter, someone’s husband or wife, someone’s brother or sister, someone’s friend.
Contemporary psychology does not go that far, but it speaks of the signs of secure friendships as the most powerful way for us to regulate our emotional distress. These are the commonly mentioned signs of a secure friendship as opposed to a traumatic (or trauma) relationship:
* You feel free to be your authentic self in each other’s presence.
* You support each other’s evolution without judgment.
* There is mutual respect.
* There is always room for honest, vulnerable advice or feedback without being shamed.
* There can be periods of space or distance without guilt.
* You both are free to have different perspectives or opinions.
But, if we look at these traits, they are all present in Jesus’ relationship with his friends. However, there is more. Jesus gives an essential category to the concept of a friend. He even offers us a definition: I have called you friends because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father. This sentence explains, among other things, why he calls Judas Iscariot his friend.
There are people whom we can love, but we cannot have a friendship with them, because friendship adds to love or qualifies it, with that communion in all things. It is a frequent situation in the case of a teacher and a disciple. For example, between two people with a great difference in age, the friendship of which Jesus speaks is not always possible.
But the love of which Jesus speaks today is always attainable. There is always a way to be at the side of the one who is our friend or the one we want to love and the Holy Spirit whispers to us how to do it.
Sam Rayburn (1882-1961) had a high rank in the U.S. government. The teenage daughter of a friend of his died suddenly one night. Early the next morning the man heard a knock on his door, and, when he opened it, there was Mr.Rayburn standing outside. Rayburn said, “I just came by to see what I could do to help.
The father replied in his deep grief, I don’t think there is anything you can do. We are making: all the arrangements “Well, Rayburn said, have you had your coffee this morning?
The man replied that they had not taken time for breakfast. So Rayburn said that he could at least make coffee for them. While he was working in the kitchen, the man came in and said, I thought you were supposed to be having breakfast at the White House this morning.
Well, I was, Rayburn said, but I called the President and told him I had a friend who was in trouble, and I couldn’t come.
The friendship that Jesus lived with the disciples means sharing the most profound aspirations, pains, and joys.
Aristotle stated there are three kinds of friendship based on three different types of affection that bond people. The first friendship is of utility. Friendship is based on benefit. Many work relationships tend to be in this category. The second friendship is pleasantness, where friendship is based on the amount of pleasure gained from the relationship. The friend is the cause of some pleasure to us, and is mostly about having fun together. Aristotle says these two types of friendships do not represent friendship to its fullest because when usefulness or good times leave, the friendship often ends.
The third form of friendship is virtuous. Two friends are united in pursuing a common goal for a moral, good life, and not self-interest. In a virtuous friendship, the individuals are committed to pursuing something that goes beyond their own self-interests. This friendship is more concerned about what is best for the other person in pursuing a virtuous life.
Saint John Paul II says: The only way two human persons can avoid using each other is to relate in pursuit of a common good (Love and Responsibility, 1960). In our friendships and relationships, it is tempting to want others to do as we ask, conforming to our plans, schedules, preferences, and desires. John Paul II states that when two different people consciously choose a common aim, this puts them on a footing of equality, and preludes the possibility that one might be subordinated to the other.
Our Founder repeated that the authentic proclamation of the Gospel requires a prior friendship. We cannot transmit our intimate experience without first having a friendship. If this friendship does not exist, we will give the impression of imposition or blind proselytism. There is no doubt that Christ gradually built a friendship with his first disciples. This requirement is especially true for those responsible for spiritually guiding or instructing someone younger, such as parents, catechists, or the superiors of a religious community.
At times, our pace of life can lead us to forget the importance of friendship: we have to know how to “waste time” with our friends. Each friend is an adventure of getting to know one another, with its high and low points, joys, and sorrows. But like any adventure, it is investing in something worthwhile. Each person is unique, as is each relationship of friendship.
There are four wonderful words that produce authentic miracles, especially among friends, when they are said. They are: thank you, forgive me, help me, and may I? Many walls are broken with only pronouncing them, and that builds community. We want to use them more, Lord, even if it is hard for us.
No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. Sometimes we repeat Jesus’ words without realizing the many ways and opportunities we continually have to give up our lives, not only to perish physically. That can be done once, no more.
Some time ago, there was an article in a newspaper about a father and his four-year-old daughter, Mary. As children often do, Mary developed a fixation on the story of “The Three Little Pigs.” Every time her father came around, Mary wanted him to read it to her.
Being both modern and inventive, the father got a tape recorder, recorded the story, and taught Mary how to turn it on. He thought that had solved his problem. But it lasted less than a day. Soon Mary came to her father, holding out “The Three Little Pigs” and asking him to read. Somewhat impatiently, the father said, Mary, you have the tape recorder, and you know how to turn it on!
The little girl looked up at her father with her big eyes and said, plaintively, Yes, daddy, but I can’t sit on its lap! Of course, what she really wanted was love. Presence is essential to love, even in human love. If we have not a physical presence, there is an emotional and spiritual presence of the person we love always with us. God says, My presence shall go with you (Ex 33: 14). This is why, Jesus promises us that His Father and He will come to make their home with us so that we don’t be alone in this journey of loving. Moreover, Jesus also promises us His Spirit who will come and guide us.
To be valued, to be cared about, to be loved with a love without strings, a love that will always be there for us; that is a foundation for our families and communities that is strong enough to build upon.
Also from a practical point of view, when we set out to verify what is lacking in my love to be authentic charity, I must ask myself two questions:
- In what way have I offended others (voluntarily or not) and
- What occasion have I missed to serve, to assist those in need, when I could have done it, even if it was by changing my plans?
Jesus commands us to love and thereby implicitly denies the idea of love as an emotion, a feeling, an experience. Emotions and feelings cannot be commanded. Only actions can be commanded.
How does a person do the action of loving another? The action of love is threefold: to see the good in the other, to do good for the other, and to help the other love you and his/her neighbors. This describes all love, whether of a parent for a child, a husband for a wife, a person for their enemy, or a human for God.
1. Look and see the good. It is always there. God is good, and everyone whom God made is on the road to goodness. It has been said that friendship is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others. This is the virtue of honor, a true spiritual birth, helping to discover and put into action the best of our neighbor, which often neither he nor we know.
2. Do all possible good to the other. Jesus taught us how to do this by becoming a servant of the other. This is what produces the complete joy that Jesus mentions today.
3. Let the other love you, sharing your views and concerns, asking for his help. When he has the experience of having loved a friend (you), he will not be able to stop; he will feel capable of doing good to many, to all, with divine grace.
In the Second Reading, St. John reminds us of our heavenly Father’s supreme act of love. Such a love does not consist in solving our problems but in sending his only Son so that He may redeem us. To send his only Son to serve us and to teach us how to serve. Not coincidentally, these are the three steps mentioned above. This explains why St. John tells us in the second reading that what really matters about love is not that we have loved God, but that he has loved us. Love first comes from God.
Some countries celebrate today Mother’s Day. Let us remember with gratitude that it is generally our mothers who practice the unconditional love of Jesus. Mothers’ love, which admittedly in some cases may be less than perfect; but in many of our experiences the closest touch we have with unconditioned love of God is the love our mothers have for us.
When we fail, they accept us despite our failures. If they don’t, they have probably been so wounded that they cannot. But usually, mothers accept us even in our failures. When we are in trouble, their concern for us is doubled. This love is very much like God’s love for us.
The love of a mother for her child is one of the greatest images that we can have of the love God has for us. And in some cases, the love our mothers have for us is so strong and effective that it creates health and motivates achievement. This is so essential that the rejection by a mother leaves such a deep wound that many cannot recover or recover with great difficulty. And this is the point of the prophet, Isaiah, who says: Even if a mother should forget her children, I will not forget you. So that God’s love is beyond that even of our human mothers; great as it is, it is frail. But God’s love is not frail and will never forget or neglect the children he has created.