17 May 2009 - Fr Terry Tastard

Holy Trinity, Brook Green

Holy Trinity, Brook Green

The word love resounds through the gospel today (John 15.9-17). And with it, Jesus focuses on a form of love that is often underestimated and not taken seriously enough: friendship. In John 15.15, we find Jesus saying to the disciples that from now on he will call them friends. They are his friends. And, since we are the disciples of Jesus today, we are his friends too. He is our divine Friend.

What does it mean to call someone our friend?

First of all, a friend is always there for you. A friend is one who listens to us. By a friend's listening a situation is somehow easier to bear, because we have shared how we feel. We sometimes find in a situation of perplexity that once we have shared our situation with a friend, the next step for us becomes clearer. Truly, Jesus is our friend, for he is always there to listen to us, and to listen deeply.

Secondly, friends are people whose company you enjoy. Friends are people you like spending time with. And this is something which Jesus says in today's gospel passage: in John 15.11 he says that he has shared the truth with the disciples, so that his joy may be in them, and their joy be complete. This says to me that the disciples bring him joy, that he rejoices in them. Too often we have a picture of God as tolerating us. Yet in our friend Jesus, as shown in today's gospel, we have the assurance that the Son of God is made happy by looking at the faces of those he knows and loves. Just as we are, with our friends. It says to me that God not only loves us but actually likes us. A humbling, and moving thought.

Third, friends are people who are on your side. You look to your friends for loyalty. They are in solidarity with you. Because they know and trust you, they are prepared to argue your case with others, to intercede with others for you. Friends begin with the assumption that you are worth defending, worth recommending. Here again we have a wonderful reminder that in Christ Jesus we have our friend, because he is the perfect intercessor, whose words and deeds on our behalf no one can contradict, who speaks up for us eternally.

Finally, the loyalty of friends does not mean that they agree with everything you do. A true friend is someone who loves you enough to be honest with you. A friend of this calibre can warn you about an unwise career move or an unsuitable suitor. A true friend will take the car keys away if they think you are going to drive after one glass too many. A friend can tell you where you have hurt others and ought to make amends. True friendship involves honesty, which can sometimes be uncomfortable. It holds a mirror up to us and helps us to know who we are. So, too with Christ who loves us. Christ who calls us friends loves us no less even although he knows us better than we know ourselves. When we fall, this friend lifts us up. When we stumble, this friend encourages us. When we create a prison of selfishness or when we close the doors of our hearts out of sadness, this friend invites us out into the light of God's love.

Fr Terry Tastard is Parish Priest of Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church, Brook Green, London W6.

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