He Called Me Friend

Acts 15:1-2, 22-29/ Rv 21:10-14, 22-23 / Jn 14:23-29

There’s an old Jules Feiffer cartoon strip about a man talking on the phone.  We hear only his side of the conversation which goes like this: “Hello, mother, I’ve had a terrible day.  GLADYS is being awful as usual.  You know how she can be.  Yes, mother, I remember you warned me.  I remember you told me she was a vile creature who’d make my life miserable.  And you begged me not to marry her.  You were perfectly right, mother.  You want to talk to her?   Okay, hang on.”

With that he looks up from the telephone and calls to his wife in the next room, “Gladys, your mother’s on the phone.”

A child even a mother couldn’t love!

Deep down inside us there’s a longing to be known as we are — warts and wrinkles and all — and then to be loved nevertheless.  “Friend,” the sweetest word in the language, is the word we long to hear.  And it’s the word Jesus speaks to us in Sunday’s gospel.  “You are my friend!” He says, even though He knows us from the inside out.  Astonishing, isn’t it?

What is it that He sees in us that we don’t see in ourselves?  Certainly not perfection!  What He does see is a reflection of God’s face imprinted on our heart.  And He sees our yearning to be true and to love, even though we’re not quite sure how to do it.

The goodness that we are and that we can be is what God wants us to see and to hope in.  He wants us to let go of the fear that whispers, “You’re nothing and you never will be anything.”  He wants us to let go of our masks and let go of our carefully crafted images and instead share with one another our real selves — not just the best parts, but our unfinished parts as well.

But why is this seeing and sharing of our true selves so important?  Because without it there can be no joy, no friendship, no growing up, and no growing into family.

There can be no joy in loving or being loved if we know that what is loved is only a mask.  There can be no friendship — no meeting of minds and hearts — if we keep our minds and hearts safely hidden.  There can be no growing toward wholeness if what needs to be helped or healed is ignored, denied or covered up.  And there can be no growing into family if we refuse to share what we are, what we have, and what we’re struggling with.

Jesus, who knows us through and through, has called us friends, and has shown us what true friends do: He has shared His heart and soul with us, and He has given His life for us.  And now He asks us to do the same: To share our minds and hearts, our gifts, our struggles and our lives, and hold nothing back.  In the fullest sense of the words, this is a life and death choice that He’s given us — a choice between a real life and a living death.