A reflection on the readings of May 9, 2021 — the Sixth Sunday of Easter
What is your image of God?
Some people see God as a distant being who governs the universe from afar—an untouchable, unapproachable God. Others see him as a kind of divine judge who keeps track of our offenses. Still others see him as a just and stern God who simply imposes rules on us to follow; he rewards those that follow the rules and punishes those who do not.
It is true that Jesus Christ is the Lord of heaven and earth and the Savior of the world. It is true that he is the eternal God who is infinitely powerful. And yet, he speaks to us words of tenderness and intimacy in today’s Gospel: “I have called you friends.” Whatever your image of God is, Jesus Christ speaks the truth to us of how we are to relate to him: we are friends of God. Jesus is our friend, and in Christ, we have been elevated to friends of God. Do we really understand the tremendous significance of this reality?
What constitutes a good friend? Someone who’s always there for you; someone you can trust and confide in; someone who’s loyal and sincere. A true friend is not self-interested, but desires to give more than receive. for there to be a true friendship, however, there has to be a response. Friendship is not one-sided. Jesus Christ is our friend, and so he desires the intimacy of our friendship. He is a God who desires our nearness, our closeness. What kind of friend would we be if we never spoke to our friend, never spent time with our friend, never shared our deepest thought or concerns with our friend? Yet, so often we neglect to treat Christ as our friend. Jesus desires an intimate friendship with us. He desires nearness, not a sterile, cold relationship; not a relationship that is distant and unfamiliar.
A friend is another self. Jesus Christ wants to be our other self. How can we deepen our friendship with Christ? Well, think of how you would deepen any human relationship. You would spend time with the person, getting to know them. You would share your thoughts, hopes, dreams, and disappointments with them. Friendship is an intimate reality. In this gospel today, Christ invites us to a deeper intimacy with him. He wants us to know him, not simply to know about him. Christ wants us to draw close to him: he desires to be at the center of our every thought, every word, every action; he wants to be our life and our breath. He wants to be the very heartbeat of our lives. “You are my friends” Jesus says. What tenderness!
The greatest way to deepen our friendship with Christ is through prayerful conversation with him. Talk to him! Talk to him as you would to a friend. Tell him that you want to know him and love him more. Tell him your joys and sorrows. Speak to him, because he’s always with you. He wants you to speak to him. And he wants to speak with you. He wants you to hear him say that he loves you, that he wants you closer to him.
So, the question that we can ask ourselves today is: Am I a good friend to the Lord? Do I spend quality time with my friend every day? Do I meet my friend in the Eucharist? Do I share with my friend my deepest thoughts, my deepest fears, my deepest hopes? And do I listen to the words that my friend wants to speak daily to my heart? How tender that Jesus calls us his friend! May we live in the intimacy of that friendship today and every day.
Image: Christ and Abbot Menas icon, Louvre, Paris, public domain. (For more information about this icon, click here.)