Today's Gospel finds us in a time of intense teaching by Jesus. It must have left the Apostles agape with wonder. In the few lines before today's Gospel reading, John tells us that Jesus has just explained his relationship with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
Today, Jesus extends a message, makes an invitation to humility: as love binds me to the Father, so love binds me to you. Reading the words silently, to oneself so to speak, misses the thrill of hearing them read aloud.
Such reading brings out emphases and discovery. Jesus seems to say, "You know all you need to know about me: You are my friends – servants, followers no longer, but friends."
No, not "seems." Jesus says it clearly, "As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. . . . No one has greater love than this, to lay down his life for one's friends. . . .
"I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father."
As we know the Apostles, at times puzzled, sometimes querulous, often bewildered, and on other occasions doubting, they persisted in spite of all and learned at last to teach and live as Jesus taught and lived.
Everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.
1 John 4.7
Their lives so formed pointed the way to acts of heroism, mercy, generosity and altruism through the centuries which followed. The world has had its rough spots, but in between it abounds with blossoms. How can we know them?
Sometimes they speak for themselves. I cherish the story of the 33 Chilean miners trapped by a mine collapse on Aug. 5, 2010 and entombed for 69 days. We all yearned for them, many of us prayed for them, an international team of mining engineers worked to rescue them.
Good for the people whose resolve to free them succeeded so brilliantly. The world rejoiced to see the blossom of love among the ruin.
Sometimes gratitude reminds us. On last Oct. 6, Ed Stelmach, then premier of Alberta unveiled a statue in front of the Alberta Legislature. The statue declares gratitude to the nuns for their great and lasting contribution to the development of the West and its children.
Though he spoke from his own experience, Stelmach's words echoed in the memories of the many of us who learned from those women guided by the love which Jesus taught.
Sometimes the world cannot deny the beauty of the lives of our heroes – lives such as Pope John XXIII, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King or Jean Vanier.
Sometimes a near moment can break into blossom: a woman almost completely abandoned by her mind, sat in a wheelchair in a care facility.
A roughly bearded electrician armed with his belt of clippers, nippers and clamps, the tools of his trade, espied her. He broke stride, leaned over to kiss her forehead, looked straight ahead and jangled on his way.
(Ralph Himsl: firstname.lastname@example.org)