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.

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A Quiet Sunday

For many, the sixth Sunday of Easter is less important than the fact that this is the first May Bank Holiday week-end and the weather is glorious. It would be silly, as well as churlish, not to rejoice in both. The extra leisure that the Bank Holiday gives, the sunshine, and the richness of the Eastertide liturgy transform the quietness of Sunday into something more, something immensely attractive and creative.

We have the gospel of John 15.9-17 to electrify us with its promise of friendship with Christ IF we do as he commands, and a whole day in which to live in his presence, rejoicing that the world contains so much beauty. Here in the monastery that means the regular round of prayer and reading is maintained, out of sight of everyone except God and ourselves; the monastic dinner is rather better, and the monastery dog indulged a little more, than on other days of the week; and there is a total ban on anything that might lead to arguments and disputes — no ‘fraternal corrections’ of any kind! This is not absence or emptiness or constraint; it is trying to live as we are meant to live every day of the week. As today’s reading from the Rule reminds us, our lives are lengthened so that we may amend our evil ways. (RB Prol. 33-38) Our ways may not seem very evil to us, but we all fall short of the glory of God and have something more to learn until our very last breath. Today is a day of boundless possibility. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail