God’s Friendship

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God wants our friendship. Such was the refrain of Jesuit mentor and acclaimed spiritual writer William Barry, S.J.  

Over the centuries, we have placed so much baggage on our understanding of God that we have turned God into a kind but remote grandfatherly figure or a stern judge in the sky. Fr. Barry tried to correct those tendencies. He taught that God yearns for our friendship first, and then our obedience, lived as discipleship, follows out of a sense of filial love.  

Talk of God’s friendship is not shallow, feel-good spirituality; rather it is deeply rooted in our tradition. Today’s Gospel marks the end of Jesus’ long farewell to his disciples at the Last Supper. The discourse begins on a note of affection, “[Jesus] loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end” (13:1). In the middle of the farewell, we find the great command to love one another and Jesus’ reminder, “You are my friends if you do what I command you” (15:14). Today we hear Jesus’ heartfelt longing to stay together amid impending separation. We hear these personal, affectionate words not as distant observers, but as friends enfolded in the divine embrace: “I pray not only for these, but also for those who will believe in me through their word.”  

Imagine Jesus praying and longing for you and wanting your friendship. Imagine Jesus not only loving you but liking you. This may feel awkward at first because we have become accustomed to a distant God or we may think that our lives are too messy for God. Beyond our hesitation lies Jesus’ desire at his last meal, wanting nothing more than to be with his friends and to love them—and us—to the end.  

© Liturgical Press.