John 15: 9-17
9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.
10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.
11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.
12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.
13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
14 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.
15 Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.
16 Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.
17 These things I command you, that ye love one another.
In our Gospel verses this Thursday and Friday, and also Sunday (B), Jesus develops on the parable of the vine and the branches with an injunction for us to be at one with each other, as with Jesus and the Father, through love. The love to which we are called is of a special quality. It is divinely inspired and a reflection of Jesus’ love for us, itself a reflection of the love between the Son and the Father. This is the new commandment.
It is truly an extraordinary relationship: as we worship Jesus, so too do we know he is our friend; God is with us in this way, sharing our life with us, to the extent of becoming incarnate as one of us. If we consider all the best qualities of friendship, then we know how to live as Christians.
St Paul speaks of these qualities beautifully, as he speaks about love, charity, caritas:
4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. (1 Corinthians 13: 4-13)
This, then, is the love of Christ which we are called to imitate. We are to love each other as Jesus has loved us, with utter selflessness, with no claims, no ‘you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours’, with complete giving and self-sacrifice where another’s needs require, with no thought as to how our good deeds to others might profit ourselves. This is friendship. Jesus Christ is the model of the good friend.
In these verses of the Bible, Jesus teaches us also that it is he who has chosen us. This is a great truth. Our very capacity to love flows from God. Our receptivity to God is itself a gift of God. When we love another human being, this is through the grace of God. Through this thought, we sense both the interconnectedness of all life on earth, and the loving presence of our Lord, each and every moment sustaining all life.
‘This is the Lamb’s flesh; this is his blood. For the Bread who came down from heaven declared: “The bread which I shall give is my flesh for the life of the world.” It is right that the appearance of wine should be the sign of his blood, for he said himself in the gospel: “I am the true vine.” These words show that any wine offered as a sign of his passion is his blood. For this reason the blessed patriarch Jacob had prophesied concerning the Messiah in these words: “He will wash his garments in wine and his vesture in the blood of grapes.” For he was destined to put on the garments of our body and wash them in his own blood.’ St Gaudentius