The last article in the Ecumenical Corner stresses the humanity of Jesus Christ and his call to all of us to be his friends (Jn 15:11-17). He has chosen us and has appointed us to bear fruit that will remain. This is his commandment, that we love one another as he loves us. He has told us this so that his joy may be in us and our joy be complete. He calls us friends because he has told us everything he has heard from the Father (Jn 15:11-17).
A friend is someone who will listen, someone who cares, someone who understands. It is someone who takes us as we are, challenges us, brings out the best in us. A friend stands by us “in good times and in bad, in sickness and health,” even in death. Every person needs this kind of friend. We need a divine friend even more. Jesus is our divine friend. The Eucharist is the presence of our friend in his sacred sign of love.
Friends are people who share. They share meals together because meals provide an opportunity to share one’s life. We share our thoughts, our time, our very selves. This intimate sharing deepens one’s love, trust and friendship. This is the underlying reason why Jesus established the Eucharist. In the face of his impending death, he shared his thoughts and love and gave bread and wine transformed into his body and blood.
The Eucharist is the Risen Lord who shares himself and the joy of his resurrection in the pascal feast. We share his paschal mystery. It is more than a memory. It is a memorial (anamnesis)—the loving, caring friendship and self-sacrifice of Jesus. Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” Yes, we were in the mind of Jesus Christ. He asked us to remember him as we participate in the Eucharist and respond by the gift of ourselves to God. Friends love to exchange gifts. Gifts are tokens of our love and affection. Jesus gives us the gift of himself in the Eucharist, he gives the Bread Life and the Chalice of Salvation.
Friendship and Christian Unity
There was a time when Catholics believed that Protestants were enemies. Church and State were hand in glove. After the wars of religion in the 16th century, there were peace agreements and the prevailing status was tolerance of other “churches”. Vatican II emphasized the Church’s respect for religious freedom (Dignitatis Humanae). In other words, faith is a gift of God and a decision of conscience to accept this gift by the believer. The ecumenical council’s decree on ecumenism (Unitatis Redintegratio) describes other Christians as “separated brothers and sisters”. Indeed, for those who met in ecumenical dialogue quickly learned the importance of friendship and respect in dialogue. Fifty years after Vatican II, I can attest that the friendship that grew among those representing the Church and other Christian communions, was one of the great gifts that was shared and an experience of the work of the Holy Spirit bringing an ever deeper unity and understanding among friends who love each other “in Christ”.
The spirituality of St. Peter Julian Eymard, his recommendation that the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament praying during Adoration Hours for all Christians and their unity, is a natural conclusion to the communion that exists between all who believe in Jesus Christ, and are blessed to have received Baptism in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.