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Breaking Open the Word

6th Sunday of Easter
May 5, 2024

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00:00 / 01:17

Introduction

How would you define a “friend?” Aristotle said, a friend was a “single soul, dwelling in two bodies.” Ralph Waldo Emerson believed that “a friend may well be reckoned the masterpiece of nature.” Others have defined a friend as “one who multiplies joys and divides grief” or “one who comes in when the whole world has gone out.”


Within our own Judeo-Christian tradition, Jesus ben Sirach offered the following understanding of friendship: “A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter, whoever finds one has found a rare treasure. A faithful friend is the elixir of life and those who fear the Lord will find one.” (Sirah 6:14-15) In our Gospel today, we are surprised to hear that Jesus calls us “friend.”


We think of Jesus as “Lamb of God”, “Prince of Peace”, “Lord of Life”, “Living Bread”, “Savior of the World.” But how often do I think of Him as my friend? My best friend. The friend who laid down His life for me.

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00:00 / 01:59

Gospel Explained

Psychologists say that a true friend is one who has seen us at our worst and still loves us. No wonder Jesus calls us friend. He sees everything, no one knows me better. If you have seen me only at my best, then I have no guarantee that you are my friend. But when you have stuck by me when I have been afraid, angry, self-absorbed and you still love me, then I know you are my friend.


Jesus says, “I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made know to you everything that I have heard from My Father. You did not choose Me, but I chose you.” (John 15:16-17)


We have been chosen by God to be His friend. Jesus has revealed the Father to us. We do not wander around in the dark, serving an unknown, demanding God. We walk hand in hand with our God, our friend. Who loves us without counting the cost. Who invites us to respond in love and say “yes” to this intimate friendship. The greatest revelation of the depth of God’s love for us, is Jesus’ response to those who murdered the Lord of Life. Jesus answered us not with hatred but with compassion, mercy and understanding. He forgave us saying, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) And the first gift He offered us after His Resurrection was His peace, a peace that surpasses human understanding, not His condemnation.

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00:00 / 02:18

Today's Theme

Jesus is our friend who loves us and calls us to extend this life-giving friendship and love to one another without limit. Jesus’ disciples followed Him without full understanding as Jesus continued to breakdown boundaries and reveal God’s plan for all His people. For Jews, only certain people, things, and places were clean or pure and therefore acceptable. Those outside Judaism’s societal limits were regarded as unclean and were avoided. Jesus crossed over these centuries’ old boundaries and challenged others to behave like Him.


The Holy Spirit was present to guide and enlighten the followers of Christ as the disciples began their mission to make disciples of all people. In our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, Peter says, "In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears Him and acts uprightly is acceptable to Him." Peter finally was beginning to understand God’s universal intentions.


Peter’s journey to understanding was slow. He remained at arm’s length from Cornelius, asked no questions about Cornelius’ faith and offered no invitation to baptism. However, the power of God through the presence of the Holy Spirit was at work. As the Holy Spirit descends upon Cornelius and the other gentile believers, they begin to speak in tongues giving glory to God. Peter’s then asks, “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit even as we have?" And Peter extends the invitation to baptism.


Unfortunately, like Peter we often are slow to understand and accept God’s call to love across boundaries of race, status, and faith. If God approves and empowers, who dares to discriminate or deny? We are called to live in friendship with Christ and with all of God’s children.

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00:00 / 02:01

Theme in our Life Today

We do not know love, we experience love. The source of love is God, for God is love. God has afforded this experience of love to every person in the gift of Jesus, sent into the world to embrace and redeem humankind through His saving death. Divine love transcends emotion. It becomes a lifeline to God. And it forms the basis of real community, which is sometimes hard to describe but easy to recognize in action.


How do we share Christ’s friendship and love with others? Jesus tells us, “Do what I command you…go and bear fruit, fruit that will last…love one another.” When we live the beatitudes and commandments our life reveals Christ’s love. And while most of us will not be asked to follow Jesus in His ultimate act of love (laying down our life), there are many large and small opportunities each day to share sacrificial love with others. I can begin by redirecting my thoughts in terms of you rather than I. I can willingly and joyfully place the needs of others ahead of my own. I can defer to another’s opinion in conversation, listening instead of being heard. I can be the first to apologize regardless of fault. I can sacrifice time on the golf course or pickleball court to volunteer at a food pantry or shelter. I can forgo a fancy car and donate more to the homeless.


There are countless ways to “lay down our life” our desires, our wants, for the good of another. This is how we reveal our best friend, Jesus, to the world.

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00:00 / 00:21

Prepare for Sunday

Spend time in prayer with Jesus my friend. How do I feel calling Jesus my friend?

Reflect on ways to share this sacred, life-giving friendship with others.

How is God calling me to change?

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