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As the Easter Season celebration continues, the gospel (John 15:9-17) keeps up unraveling the fruits of the salvific action of God in Christ’s Paschal mystery. As Jesus shares his knowledge of the Father with his disciples (14:20), he shares his love as well (v9) and points out that it is the observance of Christ’s commandments that is the clearest assurance that one abides in Christ’s love (v10; 14:21; cf s1S#30 Keep, 5/9/21). Just as Christ’s obedience was the measure of his love of the Father, the same can be said of the disciples in relation to Christ. Jesus’ love is shown in three ways. First, he surrenders his life for the sake of the beloved, the highest form of love (v13;10:15). Second, the beloved are no longer called slaves but friends (vv 13-15). Third, it is Christ who chooses the beloved, not vice versa (vv16). This was seen in the case of the twelve, the first disciples (6:70).

“philos” ( φίλος ) is translated as “friend” in all occurrences in NT. In the sense of a “genuine companion,” it is predicated to Christ in his relationship with the outcasts of Jewish society (cf. Matt. 11:19; Luke 7:34). References to “friends” in general human relationships are found in Luke 7:6; 11:5ff.; 14:10ff.; 16:9; John 3:29; 15:13; Acts 10:24; 19:31; 27:3. In the OT Wisdom also was said to make holy persons “friends of God, and prophets” (7.27). Abraham is called God’s friend (2 Chr 20.7; Isa 41.perhaps partly because God would not keep relevant matters from him (Gen 18.17). God also treated Moses as a friend, speaking with him “face to face” (Ex 33.11; cf. the possible allusion to Ex 33.18 in Jn 14).

In the Johannine context where slavery is connected with sin, becoming friends means having been freed from it (8:33-38). But friendship goes beyond freedom in being a relationship of mutual trust and communication (v15). The friends of Jesus are those who have the closest relations with him (13:23ff; 19:26f; 11:3). As such they are privy to the revelation of the Father and united by the same bonds which exist within the “household” of God (14:20).

All three readings today highlight God’s initiative. In the first reading, it is God who launches the Gentile mission in conferring the Spirit upon Cornelius’ household. In the second reading, the familiar Johannine refrain on the primacy of love reminds us that it is God who first loves us, while the gospel says the same in referring to our election as disciples. We did not have to search God out. He found us. Indeed he chose us to be his friends! May we all be grateful and make ourselves worthy of that election! Amen!

s1S#30 Keep, 5/9/21

“…The word ‘keep’ in the Bible is multi-faceted and has a broad semantic range. But a certain nuance is found consistently in both Testaments. In OT, the word ‘shomēr’( שֹׁמֵ֤ר ) has the sense of ‘obey’ concerning keeping laws, statutes, and obligations, especially under the terms of the covenant. Thus God himself is described as keeping his covenant obligations perfectly (1 kg 8:23; Neh 1:5, 9:32; Dan 9:4; Dt 7:8). Conversely the servants of God are also required to keep theirs, e.g. Abraham (Gn 17:9) Israel at Mt. Sinai (Ex 19:5), at the border of Canaan (Jos 1:7). Blessings are given to those who keep them and punishment for failure to do so. Both general (cf Gn 18:19; Jgs 2:22; 2Sm 22:22) and specific (Gn 26:5; Ex 15: 26) instructions were given as well to ‘keep’ the way of the Lord and particularly the law of the covenant, (Ex 2:6; Dt 4,5,6,7,26,28).

In the NT, the word ‘tēreō’ ( τηρεω ), in most of its occurrences, has the sense of ‘obey’, and is found primarily in the context of keeping the commandments- of God: “…if you wish to enter into life, keep …”(Mt 19:17); of Christ “…teaching them to keep all that I commanded you…” (Mt 28:20). In John’s writings the covenantal stipulation is further underlined when he mentions about ‘keeping’ Jesus’ words and the corresponding blessing that goes with it- remaining in his love and bearing much fruit (15:10; cf 1Jn 2:3ff, 5:2), sharing in the very life of God thru the indwelling of the Father and the Son (14:20ff, 17:6), and being kept and preserved from the evil one (17:15; 1Jn 5:18; Rev 3:8ff, 12:17;14:12) and death (8:51ff)…”

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Veritas Editorial

Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

President of Radio Veritas

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