Auxiliary Bishop Sylvester David offers his prayer and reflection for the people of the Archdiocese of Cape Town for today, Friday 7 May 2021, during this time of the Coronavirus pandemic. It is also available on the Archdiocese of Cape Town’s Facebook page and YouTube channel. Please also see below the text of his reflection, primarily for the deaf.
Friday Reflection 7 May 2021. John 15:12-17.
The verse prior to this passage introduces our text and links it to the preceding verses. It states that Jesus spoke these things to us so that his joy may be in us and our joy be complete (John 15:11). The two verses prior to that informs us that Jesus has loved us just as the Father has loved him and encourages us to remain in his love by keeping his command, just as he remains in the Father’s love by keeping the Father’s command. Obedience to the divine word thus becomes the means of our union with God. [Please read John 15:9-17 slowly and prayerfully].
In John 15:11 Jesus says: “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11). The term for ‘spoken’ indicates a permanent and effective utterance that could never be cancelled. With Christ, his declaration is permanent. All that is needed is for it to be actualised in the hearts of believers. In John 15:12 we are encouraged to love one another as Christ has loved us. Jesus explains what this love means by saying that there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13). All through these verses the word for love refers to the self sacrificial love demonstrated on the cross. There are four words for love in Greek and the Cross represents the highest form of love. It is totally selfless and is characterised by humility. This is how we are called to imitate Jesus.
Jesus says quite directly that we are his friends if we do what he commands (John 15:14). This is an invitation to examine how we carry out his commands, and to make sure that we follow Jesus for what he said and not for what he did not say. There are too many false claims made in His name as some tend to forget that Jesus does not want admirers, but followers. He did not come to form a fan club but wanted disciples who could imitate him (cf. John 13:15).
He then gives us the model of perfect friendship. “… I call you friends because I have made known to you everything that I have learned from my Father” (John 15:15). Let’s consider this for a while. We tend to use the word “friend” rather loosely. But are our “friends” really friends or are they acquaintances? If we take the model which Jesus gives, then only those to whom we reveal our true selves are our friends. Yes! During the pandemic we have to wear masks – but in authentic relationships such as marriage, spiritual direction, etc. what is needed is for us to be un-masked so that the true self can be known. Jesus calls us friends because he has made known to us all that the Father has shown him. All that the Father has shown him is Jesus himself, complete and unadorned. It is only when we can reveal our true selves to others that they can become our friends.
It is not a sin not to have as many friends as we would like to have. While we are called to be neighbourly and show friendship and consideration to others, in real life (if it is real!), we will have varying degrees of association – with many acquaintances and also some friends. Why do I say this? Simply because all of us, in our daily communications, function between revealing and concealing. For example, we do not say in public what we say to our spiritual directors, spouses, lawyers, doctors, confidantes and special friends. This does not in any way mean that we should not be friendly and neighbourly to those who cross our paths. It simply means that we should be prudent.
The passage ends with Jesus indicating that he has given us these commands in order that we may love one another. This love that he speaks of is based on our union with him and is, at the same time, our means of imitating him. There are many subtle indications in the passage which show this. It is good to know all that but the ultimate aim of the text, with all its nuances, is that our hearts should expand so that the love of Christ may expand in us – this is a thought that comes from St Eugene de Mazenod. All our relationships, whether they reveal or conceal, ought to make Christ more loveable to those we encounter. This is called spreading the Gospel.
Let us pray: Father thank you for the love which you show us in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Give us the grace to imitate him more closely in his offering of himself for others. Help us to give practical example to this love by becoming servants to each other. We make this prayer though Christ our Lord. Amen. [Blessing].
Bishop Sylvester David OMI
VG: Archdiocese of Cape Town