Is friendship a ministry? Yes, if it is a true service of love to others. While we are still in the Easter Season, it is good to talk about what happens when we make a decision to love our neighbor. We not only give new life to someone else, but also our own life is refreshed and renewed. Let’s try to listen to these words of Jesus with fresh and open hearts: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” Our love for one another takes on a sacramental character. It is a sign that communicates the visible presence of Christ: “By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
The absent Jesus is present. How? The Jesus who has gone home to His Father has not abandoned His disciples. Jesus walked and talked with His original disciples something that doesn’t happen now. We seem to be at a disadvantage. Whenever, we gather for worship, especially the Eucharist, this same Jesus is present, though in a different way. You see the absent Jesus is still present to us.
When times are full of great sorrow and possible death, believing in Jesus can pose some difficulty. We may feel abandoned, wondering where God is in all of the turmoil. Jesus is in a situation like that in today’s gospel as His suffering and death is immanent, yet, He urges the disciples to believe in Him and in His Father. Have you ever felt like this?
Jesus says that He has loved His own and loved them to the end. This challenges us: What is the limit of our loving? Can I continue to love in the wake of hurt and betrayal? Do I dare to wash the feet of those who have neglected me? The scene on Calvary helps us answer these questions.
Most people think of biblical prophets as fortune tellers who predict the distant future, but that is not so. They are concentrated on the present and short term future. They “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” They tell is “like it is.” And this gets them in trouble with some (remember Jeremiah). We share in this “prophetic office.”
Jesus, the Good, Noble Shepherd, demonstrates genuine care for His sheep. Thus, they hear His voice and follow Him. Those shepherds, leaders in the Church may fall in the trap of using the sheep to further their careers, their agenda and not Jesus’.
“The Gospel today says that the sheep know the shepherd’s voice. But, can sheep be fooled by someone just imitating the real shepherd? How many eloquent and cleaver preachers have turned out to be charlatans intent on fleecing the flock for their own gain? But, the real voice of our Shepherd Jesus cannot be duplicated. It is a voice we recognize because it speaks not just to our ears but to our heart as well.” Deacon Dick Folger