Sixth Sunday of Easter - Fr. Adam Royal
May 9, 2021 - 11:00 AM
“You are my friends if you do what I command you.” These are surprising and perhaps distressing words. The surprise is that God wants to be our friend. I don’t think that is the image we typically have of God. We usually see him as a wise and old king with white hair sitting upon a throne. That is, we see him as a remote but powerful king and ourselves as his people, his citizens. We hope and pray he’ll intervene when we need him and otherwise leave us be. We obey his rules only so that he might favor us and show us his blessing. That is, we appease God. This image, while common, is false. Jesus is clear, God is not a remote king issuing arbitrary decrees to rule our lives. God wills to be our friend; he is our friend. He does not lord his power over us, or threaten to strike us with lightning, or withhold his blessings because we aren’t good enough. He loves us. He created us. He wants to share in our life, just like any friend.
Even so, Jesus’ words seem off. “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” Those don’t sound like the words of a friend. I suspect if anyone else said that to us our reply would be swift and direct, “Well, then we aren’t friends.” And we would walk away. But when Christ said it, no one left, no one opted out. I think this is because his words are compelling. If anyone else said that to us we would believe the person didn’t really want a friend. He would just want someone to obey him. But it’s clear that is not the case with Christ. Jesus loves us. He loves us so much he offered up his own life for us just so we could be his friends.
When Jesus says to us, “obey my commandments,” he is not calling us to servile obedience. He is reaffirming his love for us. Love, true love, is willing another’s good. Which is to say, to love is ardently to desire the best thing possible for another. It is not a mere emotion. Jesus does not merely have feelings of fondness for us. No one dies for those they are fond of. Christ genuinely wants what is best for us. He wants us to be happy, to know peace and fulfillment. That is why he calls us to follow his commandments. As our creator he knows what is good for us. He knows how we must live our lives to experience lasting happiness. So he teaches us. God has insights no one else can have. He knows us better than we know ourselves.
Jesus offering us his friendship is an offer of the perfection of ourselves. It is the opportunity to become all that we were created to be. It is an offer to heal our wounds, to fill in whatever is missing in our lives, and to give us limitless happiness forever. His words sound so different from any other friend we have, because his love, his friendship, is superior to any we have known.