Sunday, May 06, 2018

What does it mean to be God's friend? (Sunday homily)

In the Gospel, three times we heard Jesus call us his friends. 
“Friends” – that’s very striking. So let’s drill into that.

First of all, how do we even do that?
God is so beyond, how do we have a friendship with God?
I can’t invite God over to play Euchre; I can’t help God repair his barn. 

This was the point of the Incarnation – of God becoming human.
Did the Apostles play cards with Jesus? I don’t know; 
but they did help him with his work, and he with theirs.
They ate and drank and traveled and joked together.

God became human so that we humans could be friends with God.

But what kind of friends?

The Greek philosopher Aristotle – 
who was great because of thought of so many things 
before anyone else did – 
figured out that there are three types of friends.

The first type are those who are merely “useful” – 
so we might think of people at the stores we visit, 
or who deliver things to us.
We might not really know them, yet we are friendly, 
precisely because we do business.

The second sort of friend are those just for pleasure: 
for example, others in a hobby or a club.

But true friendship requires more.
Aristotle said true friendship is oriented to what is good; 
Friends love the good in each other, and love the same good together.

In short, what makes a true friendship is virtue.
If I seek what is good, 
I am drawn to others who love those good things. 
If I don’t have virtue in me, I won’t be drawn to them;
And they won’t be drawn to me.
What would we have in common?

Notice, this is what Jesus is telling us. He says, 
“you are my friends if you do what I command you.”
In other words, love what I love.
See as good what I, your Lord, see as good.

If you have noticed, many of my homilies this Easter  
have been about heaven. 
Jesus’ death and resurrection are about bringing us to heaven.

And this Gospel is also about heaven.

A lot of people think gaining heaven is like passing a test.
I have to get the right answers. I have to know the right things.
I have to be good enough. 
If I’m in a state of mortal sin and I die, I go to hell. 
I better go to confession to get good enough again.

Now, it is absolutely true that if we are in mortal sin, 
and we don’t repent, and we die, yes we will go to hell for eternity.
That is true, and it is frightening, 
and that is an excellent reason to get to confession right away.

Nevertheless, it is still not about passing a test!
It’s about being friends with God.
That’s why we also call confession the sacrament of reconciliation.
And what did Aristotle say? Friends love the good together.

If you want to be a friend of God, love what God loves.
This is important, because if we are honest, we don’t always do that.

People will ask, why should someone go to hell 
for this or that reason. And this is why.
Every day you and I face the choice: do I love the things God loves, 
or do I love and do what I prefer, regardless of what God says?

Jesus is going his way, and he says, come with me, be my companion!
And what do we say?
How about, “Will it take more than an hour on Sunday?”
“Can we schedule it around these other priorities?”
Or, we might tell Jesus, “Maybe later; I’m busy right now.” 
Or, how about, “Can I just meet you there?”

I suspect that’s where a lot of people are.
They won’t spend time with Jesus along the way, 
they’ll just meet him “later” in heaven.
But what makes you think you will want to be with him then, 
if you don’t want to be with him now?

Of course, that raises the question, can someone be in heaven, 
even if they don’t know Jesus in this life?

There’s a longer answer, but here’s a manageable one.
When people seek the Good and live by it, they will discover, 
in the end, that it was Jesus all along.

That’s for other folks, not us. We know who Jesus is.
No excuse for us. Jesus invites us to be friends.
Not once-a-week acquaintances.
Not someone we “do business with” – meaning, here’s my tithe, Lord, 
now I expect a good harvest and no family problems this year.

As you know, I’ve been talking about our parish priorities – 
although I haven’t mentioned them in a bit. 
We’ve been focused on Lent and Easter.

Let me remind you of three of those priorities:
To provide a “better welcome” to those not part of our parish;
To foster “more disciples” – 
that is, to help each other to know and serve Jesus better; 
And to “seek out” those in our families and neighborhoods 
who aren’t believers, or aren’t practicing, and draw them to Christ.

Here’s the thing: there’s no way anyone can do this 
unless you are a friend of Jesus in that full sense.

My barber is a good guy – but I don’t tell everyone I meet 
that they should go to my barber!
However: if he changed my life? Then I would!
So if it’s, “I go to church, yeah…it’s what I do…”:
That’s not very compelling.

On the other hand, how about:
“My life is better, my life has been changed, because of my Friend”: 
that is a compelling story; 
I want to hear that story, and so do many others!

Some days, honestly, I don’t even want you to see me up here. 
What I mean is, it’s not about me. 
Not about my words or funny comments.
Maybe I said something good, or maybe I said something “off.”
It doesn’t matter.

It’s really only about what Jesus himself said. 
You hear him; his words:
“I want you to be my friend. Come with me. Join me.”

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