VI Sunday of Easter. 

The greatest love

«Remain in my Love»: Jesus speaks to a community of people called to share his Love

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Mons. Francesco Follo

(ZENIT News / Vatican City, 02.05.2024).- Commentary on the Gospel of Sunday, May 5, 2024. VI Sunday of Easter. 

The name of Christ’s disciples: «Friends».

On this sixth Sunday of Easter, Jesus, who continues to invite us to «abide» in Him, reveals to us who He is: the Beloved, and that his life is a relationship of Love. This is why He calls us to be a community of people whose vocation is to share His Love.

After having exhorted his followers to remain in him like the branches in the vine (see last Sunday’s Gospel), today Jesus asks us to remain in his love, not to distance ourselves from the source of life, to open ourselves to him who, in the gift total of himself, he included us in his relationship with the Father.

The love of Christ is the greatest love because he gives his life for us, his friends : : “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. And you are my friends» ( Jn 15:13) .

Let’s not forget that among the friends Jesus addresses in the cenacle there is Judas (who has just come out and called him «friend»); there is Peter (who will deny him three times) and there are the others, who will leave him alone during his passion). And he calls them “friends”. Today we are in the cenacle of the church and we too are called by him : «friends», even if we are fragile and sinners.

In fact, at the Last Supper, but not only, Jesus calls his friends, his equals (the love of friendship is between equal people and is reciprocal ), those who will betray him by denying him and going away from him. Why? Because he loves them with a free love and knows that they will respond to his love, that even if they do not love him fully, at least they want to love him, grateful for the love he has for them.

When they see him raised up, when they discover his boundless love, they will believe in this «excessive» love.

We too are called to become his friends by knowing his love for us. And this statement is beautiful: «I do not call you servants, but friends» ( Jn 15, 15), because » servants» (in the Greek text it says «slaves») is in itself an honorific title and indicates the ministers of the king . Minister is a word of Greek origin which means servant. Therefore Ministers are the most important people after the King. The greatest, after God, are the servants of God, the prophets, the saints. But today Christ teaches: “You are not “servants”, not even the greatest. You are something more. You are equal friends with each other and with Him. We are called to become equal with God. Why? Because the love that the Father has for the Son, the Son has given to us and we can love with the same love as God and we become like God who is love. So we are friends, equals. It is precisely this love of brothers in Brother Jesus that makes us equal to God. In the final part of v. 15 of the chapter. 15, continues: “the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, because all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” Jesus explains what he means by “friends”. Christ recognizes the disciples as friends because they do what He asks of them, that is, if they believe and love. Faced with the King of Kings, the condition of the disciple is in itself that of the «servant», a term which in the Bible (but not only) represents an important title , because it characterizes the relationship with God: it indicates a faithful person available to the Gentleman. It does not have the meaning of slave, except when it indicates a man subjected to a master of this world or (see John 8:34) to the power of sin. The title of «servant» is already important, but the title «friend» indicates that at the center of the life of God and man, there is friendship, the most perfect form of Love, the free and non-possessive relationship which brings about the communion of people.

Friends of Christ.

Today Christ reveals to us that we are not just servants and disciples, but friends.

If we were nothing but ministers (=servants), we would in any case be subjected to the King. Even if we were happy to serve a good cause, we would always be subjects forced to observe the law. If we were nothing but disciples, we would have to go to school with the Master, happy to learn the truth and receive words of eternal life.

But we are also «friends», we are «subjects» to the law of freedom generated by the Love to which He has entrusted himself and of which he makes us participants if we remain in his word: «This I command you, that you love one another».

This, more than a command, is an imploring that Jesus addresses to us, because He first loved us and He gives us the strength so that we too do the same. It is the novelty of the ecclesial community: being a school of friendship, where we learn the logic of gift and faith.

Remaining in the friendship of Christ means entering into a new relationship with God. With the God of the new Covenant, who is not so much a supreme legislator who asks us to observe the Law, but rather a Father who implores us to believe in a Love that he came to give his own Son.

In this friendship with Christ, He – who is the shepherd, the way, the truth and the life – becomes the door through which the Love of the Father becomes our home. Because today Christ repeats that we are at home in the love that the Father has for Him, the Son. And how do we live in this house? We are in the house of love if, in turn, we love. Therefore “Love one another, as I have loved you”. By loving our brothers, we are in the Father’s House. This fraternal love makes us friends of Christ. By loving our brother we become like God, like the Son, who is such because he loves our brothers with the love of the Father.

In this friendship

  • the way is not a road to follow, it is a person to follow: Christ;
  • the truth is not an abstract concept, it is a man to associate with: Christ;
  • and life is not simply a biological fact, life is loving as one is loved, he who loves us is loving Christ.

“Friends” is the truest name of Jesus’ disciples. We are no longer servants, forced to observe a law, but free friends of that freedom generated by the Love to which He entrusted himself and of which he makes us participants if we remain in his word: “This I command you, that you love one another.”

 The consecrated virgins, witnesses of friendship with Christ.

The vocation to friendship with Christ for consecrated virgins must be understood in the light of the Song of Songs where we read: » Now my beloved begins to say to me: «Rise, my friend , my beautiful one, and come, quickly! Because, behold, the winter is over, the rain has stopped, it is gone; the flowers have appeared in the fields, the time for singing has returned and the voice of the turtle dove is still heard in our countryside. The fig tree is ripening its first fruits and the flowering vines spread scent. Get up, my friend , my beautiful one, and come quickly” ( Song 2, 10 – 13).

These women consecrated with the gift of themselves to Christ demonstrate that they have believed in the love of God and offer themselves without reservation to Jesus, Spouse and Friend, testifying that «at the beginning of being a Christian there is no ethical or a great idea, but rather the encounter with an event, with a Person, which gives life a new horizon and with this a decisive direction» (Benedict XVI).

As brides of Christ, the consecrated virgins bear witness to the love of friendship with which God fills us and which must be communicated by us to others.

With simplicity but with perseverance these women show that friendship with Christ coincides with what the third petition of our Father expresses: ‘Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven’. In the hour of Gethsemane, Jesus transformed our rebellious human will into a will compliant and united with the divine will. He suffered the whole drama of our autonomy – and precisely by bringing our will into the hands of God, he gives us true freedom: ‘Not as I want, but as you want’.

In this communion of wills our redemption is achieved: being friends of Jesus, becoming friends of God. The more we love Jesus, the more we know him, the more our true freedom grows, the joy of being redeemed grows. We thank Jesus for your friendship and let us be increasingly fraternal friends with each other. “If we do not celebrate with gratitude the free gift of friendship with the Lord, if we do not recognize that our earthly existence and our natural abilities are also a gift. We need to joyfully recognize that our reality is the fruit of a gift, and also accept our freedom as grace. This is the difficult thing today, in a world that believes it possesses something of itself, the fruit of its own originality and freedom» (Pope Francis, Ap. Ex. Gaudete et exultate , on the call to holiness in the contemporary world, n. 55) .

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