I Have Called You Friends: A RC Woman Priest Reflects on the Sixth Sunday in Easter-May, 6, 2018
Jesus calls us friends-Wow! In the Gospel today, John 15-9-17,Jesus assures his disciples that as we love God and our neighbors with all of our hearts we become his friends. What a wonderful honor- to be his friend. He tells his disciples that as friends he has told them everything he has heard from his father/mother God- his amma-abba God. Reflect for a moment on those friends with whom you can share everything. Perhaps that is your inner circle of friends. It is those whom you trust and perhaps love most. I was raised in an extended family household, but was then the only child. I was sometimes lonely and reached out to make good friends. Since my earliest days I recall how important those kinds of friends are- and I remember those with whom I shared everything. With some of them, I still do this so many years later. Friendship is sometimes even closer than family, though family members may also be best friends. Proverbs 18:34 says there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother. I am so thankful for those friends. Indeed, at this time of grief and loss in my life of my life and ministry partner, and closest friend, I depend on their friendship. And, I am thankful that they can still depend on me. But more than anything I am thankful for the friendship of Jesus. I am never alone with his friendship. And He remains the glue holding me and most of my close friendships together over the years.
The picture of me with friends from my church youth group below was sent to me recently by my friend Dr. Raphael C. Jackson. I think his mother, a Bible teacher, took the picture as we were being prepared to teach the younger children in the church. How blessed we were.
This is Pastor Judy Beaumont and I with Martha Andrews Gentry, one of my dear friends from that early youth group. It was taken when we brought our church youth group to Washington DC in 2014. Martha is to my right at the end of the couch in the picture above. Her younger brother Booker is in the other black and white picture above with me.
“It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain….” (John 15:16) Now Jesus comments on the nature of this friendship- recognizing that in friendship there is a process of choosing one another. Jesus reminds us that he chose us to be his friends and to bear fruit for the kingdom/kindom of God. That is another WOW! I remember many kids games and teams where sides had to be chosen. Rarely was I the first one chosen. I was not the biggest nor the strongest, nor the smartest, nor the prettiest. I usually got on the team but by that time the feeling of being chosen was not very strong. Yet, God chooses to choose me-WOW! With all my warts and faults and negatives-as well as for my positives- no- just for myself-God chooses my friendship. AND, God chooses your friendship just as you are as well even as you read this. To accept the Hand of friendship we have only to reach back our hands and remain in that relationship and keep God’s beautiful law of love. “This I command you Love one another” (John 15:17).
Our hands then reach out and grab one another’s in love and friendship. And they cross over all boundaries for God’s love is totally inclusive. Hence the first reading today from ACTS Chspter 10 where Peter accepts the gentile Cornelius as an equal, “(Don’t bow down to me) Get up, I myself am also a human being”(v. 25-26) “God shows no partiality. Rather in every nation whoever fears God and acts uprightly is acceptable to God” (Acts 15:34-35)Peter then arranged for the baptism of Cornelius and his entire household of family and friends. We are to love everyone, for God IS love, as we are reminded in the second reading from I John 4:7-10, and include all in the Sacraments-God’s holy signs of acceptance and love. Sharing God’s friendship with everyone is our greatest joy.
Only LOVE can release life. In the friendship of Christ let us Love with the kind of love that releases life and justice.
“Hatred and bitterness can never cure the disease of fear;only love can do that. Hatred paralyzes life, love releases it. Hatred confuses life. Love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life;love illuminates it” Martin Luther King ,Jr.
Sisters and brothers, let us create the beloved community, and truly love one another.
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP
Good Shepherd Ministries, Fort Myers, Florida