Friendship with God

Photo by Bonnie Kittle on Unsplash

It seems no time at all since we were thinking about ourselves as straying sheep (fourth Sunday of Easter), now here we are, on the sixth Sunday of Easter, invited to consider ourselves friends of God — if we obey his commandments (cf John 15. 9-17).

I wonder whether we really take on board what that means. We can probably quote a whole series of edifying lines taken from the saints, such as Aelred’s Deus amicitia est, ‘God is friendship’, but it is our homely English word ‘friend’, with its connotations of mutual affection, equality, freedom and trust that gets to the heart of the matter. Who would ever dream of any kind of ‘equality’ with God? In one sense, it is absolute nonsense. But when John puts onto the lips of Jesus those astonishing words ‘You are my friends . . . ‘ we must take notice.

In a few days we shall celebrate the Ascension and, a few days after that, Pentecost. Our role and responsibility as disciples is growing. We are not to be merely followers, we must become active collaborators; and we can only do that insofar as we have taken on the lineaments of friendship with God. Becoming friends takes time. Those often apparently wasted hours reading and praying are part of the process; so, too, are what I call the blank times, when we are so bound up in grief or sickness or some other negative experience that we do not see what the Lord is doing, or we try to limit Him because we feel obliged to limit ourselves.

The rather cheeky photo I chose to illustrate this post is a reminder not to take ourselves too seriously, not to insist that we must be x or y before God can love us. He loves us as we are and wants to be friends with us now. That doesn’t mean we can go on being horrible to everyone or leading a sinful life. On the contrary, friendship with God is bound up with conversion and obeying his commandments. We change because we want to be friends with him. But let us not forget that we are meant to find joy in our friendship with God and, even more, his friendship with us.


10 thoughts on “Friendship with God”

  1. Thank you so much for the pure joy of that “cheeky photo” which so well illustrated your message today! I lolled when I opened the post and then, after reading it through, I started to think about why we do take ourselves so seriously. After all God, holding out his arms in friendship, has a sense of humour…

  2. Wonderful joy of God, humour and hamsters, Sister Catherine. Equality with God as his friend, not servant, is not a Bible message I have thought of deeply before.

    Thinking about it now, God doesn’t want us to always be on our knees in supplication, but to be joyful, for what is love if it doesn’t make us joyful as you say Sister Catherine.

    John 15: 9-17, verse 11; I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

  3. But sometimes I feel I am riding two horses at once. The idea of friendship with God is so beautiful, so I turn to Him and chat, as to a friend, about the issues of my day, perhaps. No flowery language, just me, polite, I hope but normal. Then a little billet doux arrives from quite a retro minded order of religious in Austria, dear, kind people, with an A5 leaflet in which is a very regulated and rather unnatural-sounding Evening Prayer which I am invited to pray every evening to be included in the evening Blessing. Trying to fit in with both styles is most confusing! So I opt for the first and feel guilty about the second.

    • Can’t we have both? Benedictines cultivate friendship with God through our practice of lectio divina and contemplative prayer, for example, but we also have a highly-structured and formal Divine Office (Liturgy of the Hours).

      • Undoubtedly. But this is not from the Divine Office, which I love and pray every day. And lectio, too, is rooted in the Bible. The problem I find is the freely composed text which, in this case, has been created by a number of contributors. It makes me uneasy.

        • Ah, I see. I think that it is important to respect the objective character of the liturgy. Although I have no reason to doubt the integrity or good intentions of the Austrian Order you mention, I can see the potential for going wrong, so to say.

          • Difficult. I know several of the nuns, they are good, kind souls who were very kind to my husband when he was so ill. Personally, indivdually I have no problem with them. Ah well, I shall just have to muddle through and hope it makes sense to God.

  4. Thank-you Sister, In my journey at present here on earth, I till to be traveling by myself, eg; eating out in restaurants, travelling to near by cities etc etc, and I’m always asked, are you lonely? Which is understandable, but my knowing is I have a friend in god and Jesus, who are with me always. I do my best to follow God’s rules also. 10years or so ago, I would never have had the faith to do this! I really want to travel overseas next by myself and feel so great now that I can, knowing that my friend god and my loved ones who have passed will be with me. Now, that is special and a joy to me that I have reached this understanding…. Blessings Ruth

    • Also Sister, I need to say, that my experiences in traveling might/will not go the way I expect or have planned, but the love and friendship of god will always be with me! Now that is a gift! Blessings Ruth

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