Sixth Sunday of Easter
First reading: Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48
Responsorial Psalm: 98:1-4
Second reading: 1 Jn 4:7-10
Gospel: Jn 15:9-17
By Jem Sullivan
Friendship with God and neighbor is the whole purpose of the Christian life from beginning to end. God creates each one of us out of love, to love one another. Our creation is an eternal and unique act of divine friendship for which no one, however holy, ever returns a sufficient response of thanks to God.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says it this way: “The first man was not only created good, but was also established in friendship with his Creator” (No. 374). For, “God created man in his image and established him in his friendship. A spiritual creature, man can live this friendship only in free submission to God” (No. 396).
This Sunday’s Gospel reminds us that friendship with God is the reason for our creation, ongoing existence and eternal goal. Jesus assures us in words that are astonishingly personal and deeply comforting: “I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends” (Jn 15:15).
Friendship with God is the divine invitation to which we must respond each day of our lives. We look to the faithful men and women of the New Testament whose story unfolds after the Lord’s resurrection.
And we turn to the saintly men and women who radiate into the church and into the world the fruits of their friendship with God, deepened over a lifetime of prayer, nurtured by the church’s sacraments, and formed by the virtues of faith, hope and love.
The eternal community of divine friends is the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Their divine friendship overflows into our world.
God’s desire for friendship with all of creation is fulfilled perfectly in the sending of his own beloved son, Jesus Christ, who suffered, died and rose from the dead to reconcile us to God. In his life, death and resurrection, the divine offer of friendship is extended to you and to me as “embracing in his human heart the Father’s love for men, Jesus ‘loved them to the end,’ for ‘greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends'” (No. 609).
Jesus’ invitation to friendship continues in every age in the church’s sacramental life. The sacraments are real tokens of divine friendship that initiate, restore, heal and lead us to true happiness and lasting fulfillment. In the sacraments, “God shows forth his almighty power by converting us from our sins and restoring us to his friendship by grace” (No. 277).
In an age when friendship itself is often counted by as superficial a measure as a mouse click, today’s Gospel invites us to walk in true friendship with Jesus so we may love one another as he commands us in the Gospel. Let us return to friendship with Jesus as we say in faith, “speak to me, Lord.”
What does it mean to be a friend of Jesus?
Sullivan is secretary for Catholic education of the Archdiocese of Washington.