A week before the Second World War ended in Europe, my uncle Frank was killed, trying to rescue a friend from a burning tank. His friend survived. My uncle died. I was only 4 at the time. When, in later years, my mother talked about her brother, she did so with great sadness but also with much pride. Frank had truly given his life for his friend. A military honour recognised this.
Jesus’ basic commandment (his manifesto message/ his non-negotiable red line) is that “we love one another”. The supreme example of “loving one another” is to lay down one’s life for a friend. This is what Jesus did for us. “Are we ready to do the same; for our brothers and sisters?”
Where did Jesus get the strength to do this? Well, he was God, wasn’t he”. He was, indeed but it is instructive to notice how John’s Gospel puts it. Jesus’ strength came from two sources: (1) that he kept his Father’s commandments and (2) that he remained in his Father’s love.
Keeping his Father’s commandments involved doing the Father’s will. This meant taking on our human nature; preaching the Good News and accepting the consequences: namely death on a cross. But doing God’s will meant he remained in his Father’s love. That is, he never loses the intimate and profound relationship he enjoys with his Father.
As Jesus enjoyed such an intimate relationship with his Father, so he invites each one of us to enjoy an intimate and profound relationship with him. For us this will mean loving one another and doing God’s will, his Father’s will.
Talk of God’s will often seems too big a call to young people. What if one gets it wrong so early in life? Don’t worry. It is more a question of attitude/ desire than performance. As a car’s sat-nav redirects itself, when we take a wrong turning, Jesus can take care of direction changes. After all, Jesus makes a point of reminding us that we, like his disciples, are not servants but his friends.
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Ian Tomlinson SJ