Friendship within the Church
It is the eve of his execution. Jesus is celebrating the last supper with his own disciples. He has just finished washing their feet. Judas has already made his tragic decision, and after taking the morsel from Jesus’ hands, he is gone to do what he has got to do. Jesus says aloud what they all are sensing, “My children, I will be with you only a little while longer.”
He speaks to them tenderly. He wants his last gestures and words etched on their hearts: “I give you a new commandment: love one another; as I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” This is Jesus’ will.
Jesus speaks of a “new commandment.” What is there that is new? The command to love one’s neighbor is already part of the biblical tradition. Various philosophers, too, speak of loving brothers, sisters and all human beings. What is new is the way to love that is unique to Jesus: “Love one another as I have loved you.” Thus, his way of love will be spread through his disciples.
The first thing that the disciples have experienced is that Jesus has loved them as friends: “I no longer call you servants …. I have called you friends.” In the Church we have to love simply as friends. And among friends, equality, closeness and mutual support are cultivated. No one is above anybody. No friend lords it over his friends.
Therefore, Jesus nips the ambitions of his disciples in the bud when he sees them arguing about who is the first. The pursuit of self-serving prominence breaks friendship and fellowship. Jesus reminds them of his way: “I did not come to be served but to serve.” Among friends, no one should impose. Everyone has to be willing to serve and to collaborate.
This friendship that is lived by the followers of Jesus does not give rise to a closed community. On the contrary, the cordial and friendly climate that exists among them makes them ready to extend welcome to those in need of it and of friendship. Jesus has taught them to eat with sinners and with the excluded and despised folks. He has rebuked them for dismissing children. In Jesus’ community the bothersome are not the little ones, but rather the big grown-ups.
One day, the same Jesus who designated Peter as the “Rock” on which to build his Church called the Twelve. He placed a child in their midst, hugged it, and said to them: “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.” In the Church that Jesus wants, the least, the most fragile and most vulnerable have to be the center of everybody’s attention and concern.
José Antonio Pagola
April 28, 2013
5 Easter (C)
John 13:31-33a, 34-35