May 13th, 2012 Sunday Homily: Fr.Francis Chirackal CMI, MSW
Acts 10: 25-26, 34-35, 44-48; I Jn 4: 7-10; Jn 15: 9-17
One day Mahatma Gandhi, the national leader, who led India in its ‘freedom fight’ with ‘non violence’ against British Rule, was traveling on a train with a first class ticket. Seeing Gandhi, an Indian young man, traveling with a First Class ticket, a British man took his shoe, slapped him and told him to travel in third class compartment. Gandhi, who hails from an aristocratic family, with a bleeding face asked the British man, “Sir, did anything happen to your foot as you are standing on bare foot?” A great example of forgiving love. The same Gandhi, son of a rich family, started wearing only two pieces of cloth, saying, ‘unless all Indians get cloth to cover their full body I will not wear full suit’. That is why we see Gandhi’s pictures only with very simple dress, an example of sacrificial love. Gandhi, who was a traditional Hindu believer, was an ardent follower of Christ and His teachings. He learned the lesson of non-violence from the Crucifix. He was a follower of Christ, who followed His commandment of love and forgiveness in his actual life.
Today’s first reading describes how the Early Church started to be a Universal Church as the Apostles began preaching The Good News to non-Jewish communities under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Our second reading tells us how God loved us first, taking initiatives. Today's gospel gives us two models of our personal relationship to Jesus: as a servant or as a friend. At any given point in our faith journey one of these two models is dominant. Either we see our relationship to Christ mainly in terms of a master-servant or in terms of a friend-friend. It reflects the multi-dimensions of our relationship with God. But the basic elements of all of these relationships are love and respect. There can’t be a true friendship or servant-master relationship without mutual love and respect though we may see employer-employee relationship without true love and respect.
As we see in the gospel, there exist both master-servant and friend-friend relationships. But Jesus raised the servant–master relationship to the friend-friend relationship. Jesus wanted us to be His partners in loving others imitating His love so that all people and all generations will experience God’s love and find salvation. Even in His friend-friend relationship with His disciples, there was newness and specialty. On normal level, if our friends do not come to our help when we are in dire need or under severe threat, we may tend to distance them labeling them not trust-worthy as they didn’t help in our time of need. We may call them selfish friends of good times for their personal gains. But as we see in the gospel, though he knew that his disciples are going to desert him in his difficult time, He called them friends. One who denied him three times was appointed the chief of those friends and the first Pope of the Church.
Human beings can’t choose Jesus, the Son of God, as a friend due to the difference in status. So Jesus chose us to be His friends taking the initiative and destroying the barriers with his imminent act of love. That love was expressed in unconditional forgiveness, sacrifice and acceptance. As John describes, God expressed His love for mankind by sending His Son to die for us, humans, “as expiation for our sins.”
As Jesus says, he has chosen us to be his friends. If he has decided to choose us in our unworthiness and to love and accept us as we are, considering us as his friends, then we should not fix our gaze on ourselves and ask, "Who am I, Lord, that you should love me?" Rather we should fix our gaze on Him and ask, "Who are you, Lord, that you love me so?" This question will lead us to love, forgiveness and the generosity of God towards the human race and make us to feel proud of our human existence and citizenship in the Kingdom of God. This will enable us to go out of us and reach out to others in need not as an obedient servant without other choices, but as a faithful friend with profound love and respect towards God and towards our fellow human beings. It is our common experience that we take commands with more joy from our intimate friends than from our bosses. Here Jesus’ commandment of love and service becomes more intimate to us.
Love and friendship are two ways of expressing the same reality. Following certain rules and regulations doesn’t guarantee friendship. There is only one way to be a good friend, and that is to love, to give our love to our friend without any strings or conditions attached. When Jesus chooses us He doesn’t put on certain conditions. It is true that love and friendship are loaded with uncertainties. Part of the bittersweet agony of loving is found precisely in the uncertainties that are involved and it goes far beyond feelings as we see in Abraham. Love and friendship involve decisions, choices, will, and commitment. It is an active process, not passive. It is a going forward movement, not a stationary or going backward. It is a brightening and accelerating experience which transcends momentary feelings and emotions.
Let us be good friends with Jesus and live a life of love and spread a life of love reflecting God through our lives. Let us be a rejoicing people in love-in love of God and love of our neighbors. God bless you.