Thursday, April 25, 2013

Friendship within the Church

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Buenas Noticias: Blog de Jose Antonio Pagola
April 28, 2013

John 13:31-33a, 34-35

It's the eve of his execution. Jesus is celebrating the last supper with his own. He has just washed his disciples' feet. Judas has already made his tragic decision and, after taking the last bite from Jesus' hands, he has gone off to do his work. Jesus says aloud what everyone is feeling, "My children, I will be with you only a little while longer."

He speaks tenderly to them. He wants his last gestures and words to be branded 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 how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." This is Jesus' will and testament.

Jesus speaks of a "new commandment" Where's the novelty? The watchword to love one's neighbor already existed in Biblical tradition. Various philosophers talked about philanthropy and loving all human beings too. The novelty is in Jesus' way of loving -- "love one another as I have loved you." Thus his way of loving will be spread through his followers.

The first thing the disciples have experienced is that Jesus has loved them as friends -- "I no longer call you slaves...I call you friends." In the Church, we are simply to love one another as friends. And among friends, equality, closeness and mutual support are cherished. No one is above anyone else. No friend is lord of his friends.

That's why Jesus cuts short the ambitions of his disciples when he sees them arguing about who should be first. Seeking self-interested leading roles breaks up friendship and communion. Jesus reminds them of his style -- "I have not come to be served, but to serve." Among friends, no one must impose themselves. All must be willing to serve and collaborate.

This friendship that was experienced by Jesus' followers doesn't generate a closed community. On the contrary, the friendly and cordial atmosphere among them makes them willing to receive those who need acceptance and friendship. Jesus has taught them to eat with sinners and people who have been excluded and despised. He has scolded them for pushing the children aside. In Jesus' community, it's not the children but the adults who get in the way.

One day, the same Jesus who designated Peter as the "Rock" to build his Church, called the Twelve, put a child in their midst, hugged him and told them, "Whoever receives a child such as this in my name, receives me." In Jesus' beloved Church, the smallest, most fragile and vulnerable ones are to be the center of attention and cared for by all.

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