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Scripture Reflection for Sunday, May 5

Readings for the Sixth Sunday of Easter:

Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48
Palms 98:1, 2-3, 3-4
1 John 4:7-10
John 15:9-17

In a digital culture dominated by social media and technological means of communication, the idea of friendship can often be reduced to superficial exchanges. Friendship is measured by numbers of followers and instant “likes” on social media posts. Today’s Gospel offers a deeper notion of friendship in the invitation to love one another as God loves us.

So how do we know of God’s love?

The catechism notes that, “the first man was not only created good, but was also established in friendship with his Creator” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 374). For, “God created man in his image and established him in his friendship. A spiritual creature, man can live this friendship only in free submission to God” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 396). Created through a gratuitous act of divine friendship no human being, however holy, can ever return an adequate response of thanks to God.

God creates each one of us in love for love. This is a great mystery of Christian faith and the good news the Church never ceases to proclaim to the world. On the path of friendship with God in Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit we learn to will the good of the other, a definition of love offered by St. Thomas Aquinas.

The eternal community of the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit is the original circle of divine friendship that overflows into the world. God’s desire for friendship with all of creation is fulfilled perfectly in the sending of his own beloved son Jesus who, by his suffering, death and resurrection, reconciles humanity to God.

As disciples of Jesus, we are called to reflect the same divine love in which we were created. So, Jesus says, “this is my commandment: Love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Jesus goes on to say, “I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends.” This promise of Jesus of his friendship with each one of us is deeply personal and reassuring.

To be a friend of Jesus is to recognize the primacy of divine grace in our lives. For examples we look to those friends of God, the saints of the Church who radiate into the world the fruit of their friendship with God, deepened over a lifetime of prayer, nurtured by the Church’s sacraments, and formed by virtues of faith, hope and charity.

In the sacraments, Jesus’s invitation to friendship continues into the present day. The sacraments initiate, restore, heal and lead to true happiness as “God shows forth his almighty power by converting us from our sins and restoring us to his friendship by grace” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 277).

May this Easter season be a time to rediscover in the wisdom of the Holy Spirit the true meaning of friendship with God as missionary disciples of Jesus to whom we pray, “Speak to me, Lord.”

Question: What does it mean to live as a friend of Jesus?

Jem Sullivan holds a doctorate in religious education and is an associate professor of catechetics in the School of Theology and Religious Studies at The Catholic University of America in Washington.