It’s First Communion season. We celebrated 35 coming to the table today, and will have six more tomorrow. It’s also wedding season. Loads of those, where we commonly hear today’s gospel reading: “Love one another.” At weddings, the reading swoons with romantic love. While there may be a couple of you swooning this afternoon, the reading takes on another tone in the general assembly. It recalls Jesus’ words to his friends on the night before he died, just after he washed their feet. He speaks of friendship which, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, is the highest form of love. This friendship is the uncommon relationship modeled in Jesus Christ: the capacity to lay down one’s life for others—and not only to others to whom we are naturally drawn.
The kind of friendship that Jesus calls us to is that which shows no partiality, as St. Peter highlights today: “God shows no partiality:” love without an asterisk. While it’s unlikely that I’ll be required to lay down my life for anyone,
• Can I lay down my mind, setting aside my opinions out of love for someone else?
• Can I lay down my heart, setting aside my desires out of love for another?
• Can I lay down my soul, setting aside my needs out of love for a friend?
II. Jesus has befriended us, bridging not only the divide between master and servant, but the gap between divine and human. He urges us to pay this gift of friendship forward. His “command” is not restricting, but enriching and empowering. We’re made a link in a chain of love—from the Father to Jesus, from Jesus to us, from us to others. The poor, the oppressed, the excluded—people in our very community—will only experience themselves as grace and treasure if we regard them as grace and treasure. For the Christian who “gets it,” there’s no reason to hang on to life and love as if they were scarce commodities, no need to be stingy or cheap. Life in and with Jesus Christ is immeasurable abundance. In fact, “Life in abundance” is our lofty Ascension motto. Who will know that abundance through our friendship and love today?