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Gospel

Memorial of Saint Catherine of Siena, Virgin and Doctor of the Church
JN 15:12-17

Jesus said to his disciples, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 

“You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 

“You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.”

Gospel citations come from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright 1989, 1993, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Approved by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Reflection

Patrick Frierson ’98M.A., ‘01 Ph.D.

It doesn’t sound like a good basis for friendship—“You are my friend if you do what I command”—but today’s Gospel reading ends with Jesus claiming that his commands are a gift, offered not because we must love each other but “so that you may love each other.”

Rather than obligations we need to obey “or else,” his commands are gifts of grace, opening possibilities for deeper and fuller love. And this helps us see the whole passage in a new way. Jesus assumes that we take his commands seriously. He is not distinguishing disobedience from obedience, but the obedience of a slave from the obedience of a friend.

I’ve always been drawn to this image of Jesus as friend. I remember childhood “races” with Jesus, imagining him alongside me as I ran as fast as I could. The classic hymn’s reference to God as “Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend” always resonated with me. And on this feast of St. Catherine, I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve longed for an intimacy of mystical union with Jesus. But in my busy life, my longing is constantly interrupted with responsibilities as teacher, father, spouse, and writer, and with countless distractions of ordinary life. In the absence of the mystical fellowship Catherine so beautifully describes, I pine for a clear sense of Jesus as friend.

It’s into that longing that today’s Gospel offers a refreshing reminder of what friendship really involves. Even for Catherine, being Jesus’s friend was not primarily about intense feelings of spiritual unity, but about doing what he commands. And what he commands, above all, is love.

As I receive the love by which Jesus, through his death and resurrection, offers me friendship, I am empowered to go forth and love others as his friend. Pope Francis, echoing Jesus here, reminds us of our call to “love, overflowing with small gestures of mutual care.” So in this new race so generously set before me, let me go forth into my busy life not as a guilty servant, but as a friend, running alongside Jesus in his mission to bring God’s love to the world.

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Prayer

Msgr. Michael Heintz
Director of the Master of Divinity Program
 

Almighty and merciful God, through your Son you have raised us to the dignity of your own sons and daughters. Help us to deepen our share in his life, a life begun in us in Baptism and renewed and strengthened every time we celebrate the Eucharist. May we proclaim his death and resurrection faithfully until he comes again. Amen.

Saint

St. Catherine of Siena, you who received visions of Jesus in prayer and advised popes, pray for us!