Sunday, May 9, 2021

Sixth Sunday of Easter

Every year during Eastertide, we listen to excerpts from the Last Supper Discourse, about four chapters long in the second half of the Gospel of John. Sections like today's Gospel: “Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love...
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 I have heard from my Father. It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. This I command you: love one another.

Jesus draws us into the very heart of his relationship with his Father. I listen, but I lose my bearings. There is surely a beauty to the language but also a circularity. I get confused. I want to say to Jesus, “Wait. What do you mean?” It’s just the wrong question. Asking what it means would be beside the point - like standing at the Grand Canyon and saying, “Wait, I don’t get it, what does it mean?” Or asking a person who is doing an unexpected kindness for you, “What exactly do you mean?” Or interrupting someone who’s kissing you very tenderly, “Excuse me, what do you mean by that?”

We are embedded in God, as beloved as Jesus is; the relationship is ours. Simple, astounding. We are invited to let ourselves be swept into the reality of mutual love that unites Father and Son. (See Francis Moloney) And it’s happening, we’re in it. Non-resistance is crucial; it’s like driving on ice, you don’t put on the brakes; drive into the skid, the flow, gently, attentively. God has lost himself in love for us. God is most truly Godself when he gives himself away.

The self-forgetful love and intimacy of Father and beloved Son are where we belong. Jesus begs his Father that we may be swept up into the reality of God’s own “mutual love and indwelling.”(Moloney) “That the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them.”

In Christ God reveals Godself as lost in love for his own creatures who tragically reject him. In his unending love, Jesus empowers us to be God’s children, siblings with him of the one Father, and even more his dear friends. In John’s Gospel friendship is the ultimate description of our relationship with God. (See Sandra Schneiders) “I no longer call you servants,” says Jesus, “rather now I call you friends, for I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.” Everything the Father has and is belongs to Jesus and he wants to give it all to us; this everything of God’s love and desire for us. 

We know that true friendship can really only happen between equals. And so friendship with God in Christ may seem like an exquisite, somewhat poetic, impossibility. It is impossible for us. We must depend on the Spirit to arrange things; we need the groaning of the Spirit to work out this relationship.

True friendship with God is accessible, possible because through the power of the Spirit. God has opened his heart to us, longing for our friendship. A God who is love would be inconceivable without the reality of the incompleteness that is love, the inner voice, the deep desire that says, “I cannot be me without you. You cannot be you without me.”(Jeremy Driscoll) This is the truth of who God is in the Trinity. In this mutual exchange, deferring to each other in love, Father, Son and Spirit utter these words to one another and to each of us. “I cannot be me without you.” 

Photograph by Brother Brian. Thoughts by one of the monks.