"I Have Called You Friends"

Last Friday and again today, the feast of the Apostle St. Matthias, our Gospel was from John Chapter 15 where Jesus tells his apostles (and us): "I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing.  I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father." 

For the Son of God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, to call us his "friends" is a very great thing.  It is not simply a matter of calling us friends.  Through Baptism he actually changes us and raises us to his level, for true friendship demands a certain equality.  Grace makes this possible.  Sanctifying Grace makes us holy as God is holy.  It is, in the words of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, "deifying grace" (#1999).  As much as dogs have been called "man's best friend," a dog can never really be a friend because it is incapable of entering into a relationship that requires a certain equality.  We too were incapable of friendship until Jesus came, united himself to our human nature, and transformed us so that we could enter into a true relationship with him. 

One of my favorite books for daily meditation is the revised four volume version of Discalced Carmelite Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen's Divine Intimacy.  It first appeared (and is still available) in the 1950's as a one volume work but has been revised to fit the changes in the liturgical calendar after the Second Vatican Council.  Here is a quote about God's friendship with humanity that appears in the reflection for Thursday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time:

Friendship presupposes a certain equality and community of life, whereas between God and men there is a supreme and limitless distance.  But for the very purpose of making friendship possible between himself and men, God became man and shared his divinity with man.  "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us" (Jn 1:14), so that we might become "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Pet 1:4).  The foundation of friendship, of communion was established.  Friendship demands reciprocal love.  God has loved us first; our love can be only a response: "We love, because he first loved us" (1 Jn 4:19).  We return God's love, first of all my accepting it, by opening our heart to him, and letting ourselves be loved.  The very love which God has infused into us becomes the beginning of our response, of our love.  "Love is from God" (ib. 7), it can come only from him, and moreover we cannot love God supernaturally except with God's very love.  If we correspond, there will be perfect friendship, because it will be based on equality of love.  The mystery of the friendship between God and mankind is based entirely upon the nature of charity, which is not human love, but divine love, by which we become capable of loving divinely.

Jesus calls us friends and then transforms us to make us capable to being real friends, not just in name, the way a dog is "man's best friend." 

Friends spend time together.  They enjoy one another's company and miss each other when they are separated.  So it is with the friendship between Jesus and us.  Prayer is the way in which we spend time with him and prayer can fill our entire day when we offer that day to the Lord and try to remember to renew our offering frequently during the day.  Only sin separates us from him and when we find ourselves away and wandering, the memory of his love draws us back to re-establish our friendship in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Friends also share common interests and concerns.  Or, as Father Gabriel puts it:

The fellowship required by friendship calls for a communion of affections, of desires, and of the will.  A friend desires that which his friend desires.  We are God's friends if we will and do what God wills: if we keep his commandments, if in every thing we seek not our own will, but God's will.

This is what Jesus said right before calling his apostles "friends."  He said: "You are my friends if you do what I command you."  As the friends of Jesus, we share his desire for the salvation of every person.  This is God's will, as St. Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 2: 3-4: "God our savior, who wills everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth."  Jesus acted on his desire to save everyone by suffering, dying, and rising.  We share his desire and act upon it by offering ourselves one day at a time for the salvation of souls.  Jesus saved every soul ever created. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church (#605), quoting the 9th Century Council of Quiercy, states: "There is not, never has been, and never will be a single human being for whom Christ did not suffer." Not everyone has accepted Christ's act of love and the salvation he won for humanity.  Our daily offering now plays a very important part in the ongoing work of salvation by allowing God's will to be done in our lives, thus claiming more and more parts of his creation for him.  As friends of Jesus who do what he commands--"love one another as I love you"--we desire and offer ourselves with him now for the salvation of all.