Its often said you can count your real friends on the fingers of one hand. It’s certainly true that close friends are a rare and precious gift. We treasure them as one of life’s great blessings.
In the Gospel today, Jesus speaks of friendship and the nature of love. “A man can have no greater love than he lay down his life for his friends…I do not call you servants anymore I call you friends.”
The Christian thinker C.S. Lewis wrote of friendship and the cost of love. “To love at all is to be vulnerable, love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung out and possibly broken.”
But “if you want keep your heart intact…you must give it to no one not even an animal…lock it up safe in the casket or coffin …But in that casket -safe, dark, motionless, -It will change, it will not be broken rather it will become unbreakable, hard, irredeemable.”
What Jesus offers is quite different from that he offers his own friendship built and based on the foundation of love. And we cannot be his disciples if we do not keep his commandment to love.
But it might be said you that you cannot command love. That love springs spontaneously from a free heart. But given the context of this Gospel passage Jesus shows us in fact that love is the choice of brave and generous heart.
This Gospel passage comes from the night before Jesus died, it is part of the farewell discourse in John Gospel. Jesus knows his disciples will be betrayed, deny him, abandon him and leave him to his fate to die on the cross alone. Jesus knows all this yet still he calls them friends.
But even more than that he loves them with the same love that the Father loves him. “As the Father loves me so I love you.” Imagine the depths of that eternal and everlasting love! Jesus wants his disciples to be quite certain of his love before he leaves them. And he wants us to know the same. How much he loves us. The depth of the friendship he offers us.
And the friendship Jesus offers to us, he invites us to have for one another. It is a friendship that sees beyond the failings of others. A love that is greater than our prejudices, our own likes and dislikes. A love that reflects that of the Father himself. The love of Christ who lay down his life for us: that is the love we are called to have so that our joy may be complete in the Lord and his joy be in us.