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A Friend Request
A Friend Request

A Friend Request

Sixth Sunday of Easter. Fr Luke Doherty considers how we can be friends with God.

When we consider what makes a good friend, at a human level this means someone who is there when we need them. A friend is someone we can talk to in good times and bad times, generally someone who is dependable and understands us, because many things are shared in a friendship. A good friend is someone who would go the extra mile to help us in a time of need, and someone who offers gifts and not expecting anything in return. A friend is someone who makes you feel energised after talking to them, someone you can speak in complete confidence and assurance. Equally, someone is not a true friend if they manipulate you for their own benefit, or if the friendship is one-sided. If you find yourself having to pretend to be someone else when around them, this is not a good starting point. And if someone threatens you with violence, then this is not friendship.

Our understanding of friendship in a human context is a starting point for understanding how we could ever be friends with God. But trying to apply ideas about human-level friendships to a context of creating and maintaining a friendship with our creator is beyond our comprehension. But it is made more comprehensible in light of the Gospel passage for today. How could we be friends with God? We are friends with God if we do what he commands. This is a way of bridging the gap between humans and an omnipotent, all-knowing God.

Friendship with God should perhaps resemble what makes a good friendship at a human level, but we are not dealing with just any friend request. A friendship with God is something which is not going to end over time. When Jesus says ‘I call you friends and no longer slaves or servants’, this is not really the same thing as a human friendship. A friendship with God might mean that we do end up changing, although that is not the same as manipulation. This friendship with God is also inevitably elusive, as it invites us to fulfil the commands of Jesus to become friends and to remain friends into eternity, whatever that might mean. Love for others is central to this friendship, and love is what ultimately bridges the gap between us and God. Love for others is what makes us able to be friends with our creator. A shared divine life is ironically dependent on being friends with others at a human level, and if not friends then we need to love our enemies. We are called to build up the Kingdom of God in our own way, with exercise of charity even to strangers as an important way of following the commands of God.

The sort of love which we are dealing with in being called friends of God, is a love which is already unconditional for us. Although comparing this to friendships at a human level is something we can understand more easily, it’s not like just accepting a friend request. The task of following the commands to remain in the love of Jesus is gradual, and this is based on giving ourselves in the service of others. Accepting God’s friend request is something which keeps on happening.

Readings: Acts 10:25-26,34-35,44-48 | 1 John 4:7-10 | John 15:9-17

Image: Ss Peter and Paul with Christ, from a mosaic at the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls photographed by Fr Lawrence Lew OP

 

Fr Luke Doherty is assistant priest at Holy Cross, Leicester, and Catholic Chaplain to HMP Leicester
luke.doherty@english.op.org

Comments (2)

  • Catherine

    It seems to me now that this loving friendship with God is far more of a gift and of a giving from God’s side. The peace of mind and joy, even in suffering, that God’s friendship offers is way beyond anything I could have dreamed of, or deserved. I used to think that loving God was a call to giving to him and others mostly, but I see now that what we receive is far greater than anything we could ever hope to offer Him. Of course, it isn’t a one way giving as no friendship could be. It seems an obvious thing, but it has taken me a long time to appreciate the meaning of this! Thank you for this piece Father Luke. It fills me with gratitude and hope.

    reply
  • Deli

    All God has ever really wanted is for us to “seek [him out], even perhaps grope for him and find him, though indeed he is not far from any one of us” (Acts 17:27). So, he allows for scenarios that help us make that choice.

    Thanks for the uplifing message! Your wonderful, down-to-earth, relatable homily certainly speaks to me.

    reply

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