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Sixth Sunday of Easter, May 12-13, 2012

posted May 13, 2012, 9:22 AM by fathermark@stmaryshuntingburg.org

            "You are my friends, " Jesus says to his disciples – and to us – today.

"You are my friends."

"I have called you friends, because I have told you everything that I have heard from my father."

 

            Friendship is one of the most fundamental of human values—one of the things that makes human life truly human.

"A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter, " says the Old Testament Book of Sirach, "he who finds one finds a treasure."

And again in the same Book: "Faithful friends are beyond price: No amount can balance their worth."

True friends share our joys and our sorrows; they support us and challenge us and help us to attain the good things of truly goo human life.

 

            Now, friendship, of course, is not a biblical discovery.

The great Greek philosopher, Plato, some 2500 years ago, wrote a famous treatise on the value of true friendship ...

... followed by a yet more famous treatise on friendship by his student, the great Greek philosopher Aristotle ...

200 year later, the famous Roman statesman, Cicero, added his own great essay on the value of friendship.

And, their works, translated and taken up and dressed in Christian faith by some of the greatest minds in the Christian tradition: St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, St. Aelred ...


            And one of the aspects of true friendship about which all of these authors, pagan and Christian, agree is that there can't be friendship without equality.

There has to be equality between two people in order for there to be true friendship between them.

A slave can't really be a friend with a king ... a foot soldier with his general

Even the great Chinese philosopher Confucius wrote: "Have no friends who are not your equal."

 

            Now, to modern ears that sounds a little strange – "have no friends who are not your equal" ...  "there can't be true friendship unless there's equality ..."

But, in fact, it would be difficult for an employee to be a friend of her boss (at least in a big organization) ... oh, they can be friends of sorts but the employee always really knows that the boss can fire her ... and so she isn't really free to say anything to her boss ... and, in reverse, it would be inappropriate for the boss to share her feelings about other employees or the workplace or all of her plans or appear to show favoritism ...

Likewise, there really can't be friendship between a teacher and a student (at least in a formal teaching arrangement) because the teacher has power over the student .

We call this a "power differential" between them.

No equality ... no friendship ... at least not completely.

 

            And so, friendship is one of the most basic human values on which the happiness of human life depends ... but there can't be friendship between people who are not equals.

 

            Which is why the very simple words of Jesus for us today are so completely amazing ... so incredible ... so  awesome:

"I call you friends ..."

 

            The Master calls his disciples his friends ... the teacher his students ... the leader, his followers.

But, more, the Son of Almighty God calls his creatures ... he calls sinners his "friends"!

 

            This is what amazed the Christian authors who reflected on the meaning of true friendship.

Almighty God in heaven ... who is completely sufficient in himself ... complete in himself ... who needs nothing and no one outside of himself ... Almighty God deigns to invite his creatures into friendship with himself!

And, precisely because there has to be equality between friends ... Almighty God lowers himself ... lowers himself infinitely beneath himself ... to become a mere human being ... Almighty God becomes one of us so that he can invite sinners into friendship with his Divinity.

And ... through baptism into Christ ... baptism, by which we are united with Christ in his death and resurrection . .. through baptism, God raises us ... elevates us ... lifts us to be his sons and daughters by adoption ... precisely so that ...

... sinful creatures can become friends of God in Christ Jesus, our Savior.

 

            And so, those simple words of Jesus today are really amazing words ... incredible words ... awesome Good News:

The Son of Almighty God calls us friends.

And he shows us what his friendship means when he says "No one has greater love ... than to lay down one's life for one's friends."

And, on his Cross, that's exactly what our friend Jesus did for us: he "laid down his life" for us ... to free us, his friends, from the power of evil and sin and error and falsehood and death.

And, now, at every moment, he is present to support us and guide us and heal us and help us.

Jesus Christ ... our truest friend.

 

            "A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter, " says the Old Testament Book of Sirach, "he who finds one finds a treasure."

You and I have found just such a friend in Jesus ... a sturdy shelter ... and our truest  treasure.

 

            But could he say the same of us?

Has the Lord found a "sturdy shelter" in you and me?

The Lord is a friend to us ... are we a friend to him?

He has lowered himself ... He has raised us up ... He has laid down his life for us, his friends ...

What have you and I done for him?

What do we do for him?

What inconvenience do we endure?

What sacrifice do we make?

In what way do we "lay down our lives" for our truest friend?

 

            There's a famous old Protestant hymn:

What a friend we have in Jesus,

all our sins and griefs to bear!

What a privilege to carry

everything to God in prayer!

 

               "What a friend we have in Jesus!

Could the Lord sing of us: "What a friend he has in us?"

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