In my reflections during this Lenten season, I have been trying to learn more from Jesus and to go deeper in making him the way for my life, so that I can know him even better and love him and serve him even more.
This week I want to reflect on Jesus as a friend. In sharing our humanity, Jesus understood how important friendship is in our lives.
He himself was a good friend. He was close friends with his disciple John. The Gospels give us tender details of his friendship with Mary and Martha and their brother Lazarus.
Jesus called Lazarus “our friend,” and he wept when he died.
In his ministry, Jesus seemed to try to be a friend to everyone, so much so that his critics accused him of being friends with the wrong kind of people — “tax collectors and sinners.”
In his human friendships, Jesus was trying to open a door for us, trying to help us to see the divine friendship that God wants with each one of us.
At the Last Supper, he made this clear:
“No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. 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 that I heard from my Father. … I command you: love one another.”
Jesus’ words here are so personal, so touching. He speaks not only to his first disciples. He is speaking also to you and to me.
We are his friends, too, because he has also told us our Father’s beautiful plan of love.
The love of God — his total love for us, without exceptions and without conditions — this is still so hard for so many people to believe. But it is true! God loves us no matter what, no matter what we have done or what we have failed to do. God’s love is true.
This is what Jesus’ invitation to friendship means.
Our friendship with God does not depend on our goodness, or anything we could “earn.” It is rooted in God’s great and mysterious love — a love that leads him to lay down his life for his friends, even for those who act as his enemies. We remember that when Judas comes to betray Jesus in Gethsemane, Jesus greeted him as “Friend.”
To be the friend of God, we need to believe in his love for us and we need to know him as he knows us. So how do we get to know him better?
When his first disciples asked that question, Jesus answered, “Come and you will see.” Although we cannot come to him and see him as those first disciples did, we can meet him today in the pages of the Gospels, as well as in prayer and in the Eucharist.
Often I make the comparison that the Gospels are like Jesus’ Facebook or Instagram page. It makes people smile when I say this, but it is true.
The Gospels tell us what is happening in Jesus’ life and what is on his mind. If we want to know Jesus, then we need to check in with the Gospels every day for updates on his status, to see what he is commenting on.
The language of social media fascinates me — “followers,” “friends,” “shares,” “likes,” etc. These media show how important friendship and human connections are in our lives. But we need to remember that what we are looking for online we can only truly find in God.
We can be friends with the living God! All we need to do is accept his request. Jesus is inviting us to be his follower and friend. He is inviting us to share in his holiness, in his divine nature. He is calling us to be like him here on earth so that we will see our Father’s face in heaven.
And Jesus calls us to friendships that are rooted in our friendship with him. He shows us that true friendship is a spiritual fellowship, a communion of the will and the mind that is rooted in an unselfish love for the other.
That is what Jesus says: “You are my friends if you do what I command you.”
What he commands is that we love our friends as he loves us — with a love that is self-giving and self-sacrificing, a love that wants nothing for ourselves but desires only what God desires.
Pray for me this week and I will pray for you.
And let us ask our Blessed Mother Mary to help us to grow in our friendship with Jesus — to know him better and better and to conform ourselves more and more to his will for our lives.