I call you friends...

Published on 07 May 2021

The truth I have now come to realise is that God does not have favourites [1]. 

The life’s work of each of us is to allow ourselves to be prepared for eternal happiness with God.  We are to be glad forever in his company.  The preparation for everlasting contentment takes place in many different ways.  We have been called to be disciples of Christ. God sent into the world his only Son so that we could have life through him [2].  As friends [3] of Jesus, we are helped by the sacraments, the scriptures, by prayer and by our fulfilled membership of his body, the Church.   We are part of a community of believers. We support each other. Our brothers and sisters show us how to practice our faith and how to be of service to others.  The assist us and allow themselves to be aided by us. Might we think of ourselves as favoured by God by our being given these advantages? His right hand and his holy arm have brought salvation [4].  We are certainly grateful for what we have received.  We give thanks for our lived knowledge of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and for our capacity to pray and to serve. These are the best things about us and they are gifts which we are receiving all the time. 

It may be that we sometimes find our Christian life onerous.     You did not choose me but I chose you [5].  The spiritual fruitfulness that is required of us demands fidelity and devotion.  These are not always easy to achieve even with God’s abundant help. I commissioned you to go out and to bear fruit, fruit that will last [6].  The Lord’s new commandment of love, like all the commandments, can be difficult to keep.  What I command you is to love one another [7].   Confronted by our own frailty and by the long history of our resistance to grace, we can catch ourselves wishing that we had never been so fortunate as to have so much expected of us. Will we have been unduly favoured if we arrive at our judgement with a deep, lived understanding of the teaching of Christ?  If God judges us ready for his company for all the ages must we first be his favourite?  If holiness is God’s favouritism, then it is a selectiveness that brings great challenges to its beneficiaries.  To be God’s holy favourite is to live happy with his many demands as well as grateful for his abundant grace. Divine favouritism also seems sometimes to show itself in great suffering and in many troubles. The saints do not have it easy.  Only under such burdens, we can find ourselves wondering, does virtue flourish, does holiness grow and does closeness to God become completely natural?  Are God’s favourites those holy men and women who have the toughest life and death? Are our brothers and sisters who are suffering the most also divine favourites because, in their difficult conditions, they have the materials most suitable for sanctity?

The truth I have now come to realise is that God does not have favourites.  The non-favouritism of God is to preside lovingly over a providence in which each one makes her or his own way into the kingdom.  We follow that path obedient to the divine will and responsive to God’s gracious help. In our sincere gratitude for our blessings we also gather strength for the difficulties.  In our humble acknowledgement of the gifts we have received, we also understand that they could be building us up for testing and suffering.  Such wise preparation is in our prayer, in our grateful reception of the sacraments and in the charitable service of others. The Holy Spirit directs us, in all of this.  Full of hope, we allow ourselves to be armoured for the troubles that might come.  Full of trust, we ask for God’s help for what will surely sometimes be very difficult.  Full of joy, we resolve not be cast down by what befalls us.  Our endurance at the moment of truth is far from assured.  Our serenity is continually under threat! We seek divine support to be ready for the challenge which will one day surely come to us and may already have arrived.

Lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil [8] we pray as Jesus taught us.  We are not seeking a crisis or courting danger.  We are not searching for a fight or a challenge.  We have plenty to do without extra difficulties. We are allowing ourselves to be trained in the complete and generous practice of our faith.  It may be that, for us, the test will be the accumulation of relatively small challenges. Do we pray?  Do we try to mend the wrongs that are being done? Do we love the unlovable who cross our path?  Do we live through, with and in the body of Christ, allowing our closeness to him to merge with every other corner of our existence, especially our care of the weak? It could seem that there is a mild favouritism in our being enabled even to ask these questions of ourselves. Yet is it not the case that, one way or another, these inquiries are put to everyone?  Even those who fear God and do what is right [9] without knowing that that is what they are doing, have heard the challenge and risen to it.

Jesus said: I have told you this so that my own joy may be in you and your joy be complete [10].   The delight and satisfaction promised us by the Lord seem far away from the fears which exercise us, not only about our own fragility, but also about the cruelty, injustice and falsehood that are in the world. We are greatly distressed by the divisions amongst ourselves and between others.  We regret all that is spoiled by violence and hatred.  The promises of Christ, however, will be fulfilled not despite the worst things which go on in the world and in our own life but because the love of God breaks through evil to strengthen us, help us and build us up precisely where there seems no other hope.   When there is no one else in whom to trust, we trust God.  In the greatest difficulties we turn to him.  He alone can save us. In response to our prayer for mercy, the One who has no favourites, responds with mercy. Then, humbly, he asks the favour of us that we observe his new law: remain in my love[11], the Lord requests of us, empowering us to do so.   He adds, if you keep my commandments you will remain in my love [12].  In this, he is not imposing a condition on our receiving his help but showing us how to love as he wishes us to do.  Remain in my love, ‘keep my commandments’, bear fruit that will last, and let ‘your joy be complete.’  We are the beneficiaries, not of favouritism, but of a friendship that will last forever, and to which all are invited.

Homily by Father Peter Gallagher SJ

[1]              Acts 10.34

[2]              1 John 4.9

[3]              John 15.15

[4]              Psalm (96)  97.2-3

[5]              John 15.16

[6]              John 15.16

[7]              John 15.17

[8]              Matthew 6.13 and Luke 11.4, The Lord’s Prayer

[9]              Acts 10.35

[10]            John 15.11

[11]            John 15.9

[12]            John 15.10