Your friends make known, O Lord, the glorious splendor of your Kingdom.
Recently I came across a speech by the religious philosopher John Macmurray concerning Jesus’ “revolution”: It’s entitled “Ye are my friends,” and reads in part:
Copernicus made a revolution in human knowledge merely by shifting the center of the solar system from the earth to the sun. The world revolution of the Christians came when Jesus discovered the true center of human life.
“Not servants but friends” is the proclamation of the revolution. The keyword of the Christian gospel is not service but friendship. Of late, I believe, we have been thinking too much in terms of service—service of God and of the world.
There is nothing distinctively Christian about that. It is the natural way of religious thought when it becomes practical. Socrates called himself the servant of Apollo. Christ's revolution consisted, like that of Copernicus, precisely in denying the “Natural” point of view and substituting friendship for service.
“But surely,” you will say, “we are called as Christians to serve Christ and to serve the world.” No, we are called to be the friends of Christ and the friends of men.
Today’s gospel and Macmurray’s citation, “Ye are my friends,” both come from the Gospel of Saint John. The philosopher, a Veteran of the trenches of the First World War, reacted against traditional ideas of servitude. He witnessed the wholesale slaughter of millions of men at the behest of incompetent leaders, chosen only by their aristocratic birth as kings and emperors. The "Great War" marked the end of their authority; a new age of human equality had arrived. There would be no slave or free, no citizen or alien, no male nor female, but all could be friends with equal standing.
Does the Enlightenment also reflect on our religion? Can we speak of equality between God and the human creature? Can a candle be likened to the Sun; or a breath, to a hurricane?
Created in God’s own image, we enjoy being. Although it began in time and God’s being began in eternity, the human being may attain eternity if she is willing to step out of herself into friendship with God. Jesus described the process as dying to oneself, “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it .“
I might be only a mirror in the bright light of God’s love, but I can shine brightly, even blindingly, as the sun shines.
In today’s first reading we hear the apostles described as the foundation stones of the new Jerusalem.:
The wall of the city had twelve courses of stones as its foundation,
on which were inscribed the twelve names
of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb.
These leaders of the early church were the “friends of Jesus.” They had known him personally and, as their voice goes out to all the earth, we too become friends of Jesus.
We often refer to one another as brothers and sisters in the Lord; we are also friends. Therein is our freedom. We can disagree; we can feud; but we continually come back to our Communion, which is the Presence of God among us.