Sunday, March 29, 2020

5th Sunday of Lent: The friendship of Jesus

Readings, Gospel and Homily (Fr Richard) for the 5th Sunday of Lent

Readings: (Check you have the correct date on the right hand column of the universalis page)

Homily: The friendship of Jesus

"If your friends ask you to meet, you should say 'no'."

This was one of the many instructions the Prime Minister gave us on Monday that really hit home. The idea of jumping in the car to meet up with a good friend or go round to their house is currently out of the question. When we’re deprived of something we take for granted, personal contact with our friends, we realise how much we love them, we realise how precious friendship is.

The great English saint of our Diocese, St Aelred of Rievaulx, who wrote the masterpiece “Spiritual Friendship”, wrote:

“No medicine is more valuable, none more efficacious, none better suited to the cure of all our temporal ills than a friend to whom we may turn for consolation in time of trouble, and with whom we may share our happiness in time of joy.”

Jesus also cherished friendship. In today’s Gospel, he travels to Bethany with his disciples who are close by his side. St John throughout his Gospel uses the word philia, the love of friendship, to describe his relationship with the disciples. He’d also made great friends with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. We hear today that Jesus loved them. Jesus wept at the death of Lazarus and the people who saw his emotion said: “See how much he loved him!”

Although the wonders of modern technology mean we’re still able to speak to and even see our friends, it might be the case we don’t meet up with them for weeks, perhaps even months now. And, sadly, as people die of coronavirus and indeed of any other illness at this time, some people will not see their friends again (at least on earth).

But in our isolation, whatever form that currently takes, we know our best friend, Jesus Christ, will be always with us, as long as we call on Him. A good priest friend of mine chose for the words on his ordination card John 15:15, Jesus saying: “I call you friends.” Indeed, Our Lord is very close to us. We know this because of what St Paul tells us in our second reading today. As Christians, our interests our spiritual, “since the Spirit of God has made his home in you.” He tells us that “if Christ is in you then your spirit is life itself because you have been justified…” In other words, by Christ’s Incarnation, Passion, death and Resurrection, He dwells in our hearts. He has breathed his Spirit deep within us to give us life. We know where one Person of the Trinity dwells, there are the other two.

At this time of isolation, we know that Jesus our friend lives among us. This wonderful reality means that, rather than calling this period a time of isolation, we can turn it on its head and think of it rather as a time of solitude, a time of resting with our greatest friend, the Lord.

If we stay faithful to Jesus our friend, he will raise us up like he did his friend Lazarus. As St Paul again tells us today: “he who raised Jesus from the dead will give life to your own mortal bodies through his Spirit living in you.” Jesus will lift our spirits, bring us joy and peace, and lead us, when Our Father calls us, to the everlasting joys of heaven.

As we today rededicate our country as Our Lady’s Dowry, we call on Mary, Mother of Christ and Mother of us all, to bring us deeper into friendship with her Son, who will console us and raise us up.

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