Friday April 29, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fifth Week of Easter
Reading (Acts 15:22-31) Gospel (St. John 15:12-17)
What Our Lord tells us in the Gospel reading today is really nothing short of astounding, and it is something that we really need to ponder deeply within ourselves. He tells us that He no longer calls us slaves but friends. If we think about who we are in the light of God, the infinite nature of the Lord and then the tiny miniscule nature of who we are by comparison, we realize that even to be called His slave is an incredible dignity for us. But for Him to call us His friends puts us on a level that so surpasses anything which by nature would be ours that it is mind-boggling.
But He gives a condition to it: You are My friends if you do what I command you. Isn’t it interesting that it is a slave who has to do what is commanded? But, in this case, Our Lord tells us that we are His friends if we do what He commands, because the command that Our Lord has given to us is the one that will raise us to the highest dignity – and that is to love. It is just that simple. It is also just that difficult because we all know that it is not a simple thing to be able to love. It is the purpose of our creation, it is the fulfillment of our being, and yet at the same time it is one of the single most difficult things we will ever have to try to do. Not in those rare and exceptional moments when you are with somebody that you love and have all of those wonderful, gushy feelings or something, that is not what we are talking about. We are talking about the virtue of charity, to practice charity and to have that in the heart 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year. That is what a virtue is; it does not change.
When we think about how this operates within us, it is, as the Lord says, to be willing to lay down one’s life. It is to have that desire to seek only the good of the others, to be willing to serve. Not serve out of some sense of utter slavery that we are being forced into this, but rather to serve out of love, to allow ourselves in this way (rather than practicing any kind of slavery of constraint) to practice a slavery of love, which is exactly what happened with Jesus. Recall what Saint Paul said of Him, that He humbled Himself and took the form of a slave – and this is God! Now He is asking us to do the same. If we will humble ourselves to become a slave of love, He will elevate us to be His friend. What an extraordinary thing. If we will simply do what we were created to do, then He will elevate us beyond anything we could ever imagine and unite ourselves with Him. That is what is being offered to us today.
And so His commandment is simply to love, to develop that virtue, to love God and to love neighbor. That means always to seek and do what is the best for other people, to seek always the Will of God, knowing that that is truly the very best that we could ever seek. In this way, we will find the fulfillment of our being. In this way, we will become friends of the Lord, because remember that you become like your friends. You become like the people you associate with. If we become like Jesus, it is because we are spending the time with Him, because we are friends with Him, because we speak regularly with Him, and because we do His Will as He did the Will of His heavenly Father. So we, who by fallen nature are slaves of constraint, can make a free choice to become instead a slave of love. And when we choose the slavery of love, we find a perfect freedom and we are elevated to the point where we become truly friends of Jesus Christ.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.