First Reading: Acts 15:22-31
Responsorial Psalm: Ps. 56(57):8-12
Gospel Reading: John 15:12-17
What a Friend we have in Jesus
As social beings, we understand that friendship is one of the great joys of life. According to Aristotle, there are three types of friendships: those based on utility, those based on pleasure or delight, and those grounded in virtue. In the first type, friendship based on utility, people associate for their mutual benefits alone and not for the affection of one another. This kind of friendship is the most common. For example, my mechanic is my friend because it benefits me when my car is in the shop, and I am his friend because he wants my business. Also, my classmate/colleague/workmate is my friend because I learn more or get eased of the enormous work when we study or work together. This type of friendship is, by nature, self-regarding and selfishly motivated, though mutually satisfactory. In the second type (pleasure or delight), people associate for the sake of sensual pleasure and delight (including sexual and other physical types of pleasure). Again, these are self-regarding or self-focused relationships. In contrast to the self-centred relationships described above, Aristotle delineates a third type, those grounded in virtue, fully-developed friendship. This type completes the intended design or purpose of Friendship. This entity is the final cause of friendship. This is an essentially selfless, altruistic, and constructive relationship. Each friend, by his own qualities, helps to fully realize what is not only potentially in the other but also realized in the other. A can go out of his way for the betterment of B and vice versa. This reflects the true beauty and joy of friendship based on love.
In today’s gospel reading, we hear Christ illustrating the friendship grounded in virtue. Notice that Christ began with the commandment of love: “This is my commandment: love one another, as I have loved you.” Then he went on to explain the essence and value of that love, saying: “A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends.” Christ has first demonstrated his friendship for us by laying his life for our redemption. He is the perfect depiction of the altruistic friendship grounded in virtue. He is indeed our friend; however, it is only when we love him and also our fellowmen that we become his friend: “You are my friends, if you do what I command you”
In making us his friends, Jesus freed us from the slavery of sin and the external ritualistic observances of the law. This is reflected in his statement: “I shall not call you servants anymore, because a servant does not know his master’s business; I call you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have learnt from my Father.” The Greek word “δούλους” (Doulos) in verse 15 translates itself as “slave”. Thus, in saying this, Christ is invariably telling us that we are no longer slaves held in the bondage of the ritualistic observances of the Mosaic Law, but his “friends” because he has revealed the divine mysteries to us through his death and resurrection. In explaining further, St. Paul in his Galatian epistle reveals that Christ came into the world to put an end to the period of slavery under the law. Thus, one of the reasons that Christ came was to confer upon us Christians the status of sonship through adoption. Hence, Christ was born under the Law to redeem the subjects of the Law – those who were under the Law (cf. Gal. 4:4-7). This explains why in the First Reading, the problem of the ritualistic external observances of the Mosaic Law was resolved by the Apostles in Jerusalem for the benefits for the pagans converted to Christianity in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia. We hear the Apostles and elders saying: “It has been decided by the Holy Spirit and by ourselves not to saddle you with any burden…” This is the result of the sacrificial and altruistic friendship of Christ grounded in virtue. Through this, we are redeemed from the burdens of the law and called to love as Jesus loves us.
Dear friends, Christ has redeemed us by his death and resurrection. He chose us as his friends in love, and commanded us to also “love as he has loved us”. The questions for today are: Do I really love Christ? Have I chosen him as a friend (inasmuch as he has already chosen me as his friend)? Am I only his friend in the time of material benefit? Do I really love my brothers and sisters around me? Can I go out of my way to see to their spiritual good? What kind of friendship do I have with them? Is it a kind of parasitic friendship or that based on utility or pleasure? This difficult period of global quarantine is a time to demonstrate the love we have for one another. Our Christian calling goes beyond thinking of what to gain from the other person, but what I can charitably offer to him or her in a selfless way.
Above all, the surest friend we can trust and rely upon is our Lord Jesus Christ who has borne all our sins and grieves on himself to redeem us in order that we might live in freedom as children of God. May by strengthening our relationship with Jesus, we may come to understand and appreciate the value of true and altruistic friendship grounded in virtue in our relationship with those around us. Amen.
© Fr. Chinaka Justin Mbaeri, OSJ
Paroquia Nossa Senhora de Fatima, Vila Sabrina, São Paulo, Brazil
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