May 15, 2020 (Friday) - Wanna Be Friends? - A Reflection on John 15:12-17

(Jesus said:) “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. 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 known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

For just a brief moment, imagine Jesus is standing in front of you, right now, wherever you are, and asking you: “Do you want to be my friend? ...... Well, do you? I’m waiting for an answer. Say ‘yes’ or ‘no’”. “Well” — and now I’m quoting Jesus — “you are my friend if you do what I command you. And what I command you to do is to love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:14,12). That as we saw yesterday (https://youtu.be/Ku_4ccDcU0o) was with a love that was unconditional, forgiving, and self-sacrificing.

Ok. I know you want to be his friend, otherwise you wouldn’t be watching this. And because you want to be his friend, you want to do what he commands. And because what he commands is for us to love one another as he loves us, we want to love everybody like that. But the big question is “How? How on earth are we to love people like this? We find it difficult to do this with people we call our friends, how are we to do this to our enemies?! Especially when our every impulse is to hurt them, and hurt them badly.”

We cannot. Let me say it again: we cannot, not on our own strength and with our own wisdom. This is why Jesus said a little earlier — and I am filling in what is unsaid: “If you love me, you WILL keep my commandments. (Otherwise you don’t love me, so don’t pretend you do. But even if you do, I know you cannot keep my commandments on your own, so) I will ask the Father, and he will give you (an) Advocate, to be with you forever” (John 14:15). “And this advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you” (John 14:26).

The Holy Spirit is the key. If we don’t have a relationship with him, we will never, ever be able to do what Jesus asks us to do. But if we have a relationship with him, he will teach us the things of God. When we read Scripture he will open our hearts and minds to what we read, helping us understand how Jesus looks at us, looks at life, looks at the world. We cannot be like Jesus unless we see how he sees things, and we cannot see how he sees things without the Holy Spirit to guide us. As Paul writes: “no one (can) know the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:11).

So, how does this work practically? Ok. Imagine that somebody you love hurts you by what he says or does. It is not a one-off thing; the person hurts you often. You want to hurt the person back, and the worldly way is to do exactly that. Make the guy pay, is what it teaches. But God teaches differently, no? He says, “Forgive”. “How many times?”, you ask. “As many times as necessary,” he replies (see Matthew 18:21-22). “How can I forgive somebody so often?”, you ask. “Because I forgive you so often,” he replies. “Or do you forget how often you hurt me?” And that’s how it works.

I am giving a series of talks on the Holy Spirit that I really suggest you watch. Here are the links to the talks:

1. Sins against the Holy Spirit : https://youtu.be/ePjC1XJ8DIk

2. Infilling of the Holy Spirit: https://youtu.be/q_O-zhe4aa8

3. Leading of the Holy Spirit: https://youtu.be/g9MDymuAQgs

4. Growing in the Holy Spirit: Releasing May 18

Before I go: Next Friday, we begin a 9-day novena leading to Pentecost. In this novena, we pray for the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit — wisdom and understanding, counsel and might, knowledge and fear of the Lord, and piety. I will be leading a prayer on my Facebook page every day, and will explain each gift as we go along. Because of the time differences around the world, please follow me on Facebook to know when I go live. The address is facebook.com/aneelaranha. In the meantime, you may want to download a copy of the novena prayer. You can download it here: http://tiny.cc/pentecost2020.