I hope that you have emerged this side of Holy Week and Easter Sunday with increased hope in your heart, encouraged, renewed and inspired by the remembering of the Resurrection and the events leading up to it.
For me it was a busy week with a lot going on domestically and, as always seems to happen in Holy Week, I found myself stumbling through the days, trying to keep up with my intended observances of the journey to the Cross and then the Empty Tomb.
Sometimes when my best laid plans fall apart it's frustrating but in many ways I think stumbling is an authentic way to walk through Holy Week - I get the impression that in their own way the twelve disciples were also stumbling along as they followed Jesus, running just to keep up with Him in every respect and not understanding at all what was actually going on. A misunderstanding that is most clearly revealed in the tragic actions of Judas but also obvious in the desertion of Jesus by his disciples during the hours when he is most in need.
The events of Holy Week this year prompted me to reflect on friendship - what it means to be a friend and to have a friend. Every rabbi had disciples - a word that in this context means far more than just being a student - a disciple actively copied how their rabbi lived as well as following his teachings and the aim was to become a living copy of that rabbi. There doesn't appear to have been a requirement that a follower should become a friend of the rabbi but it seems that Jesus wanted far more from and for his disciples because he made them his friends:
'I no longer call you servants...instead I have called you friends...' John 15:15
The importance of friends is highlighted in the Bible long before the coming of Jesus in the text but also in the accounts of deep friendships that are forged in times of adversity and against the odds. Relationships are always highlighted as vital for human wholeness above structures or institutions and it is into a friendship with God we are invited. We may not focus on friends when we have them and it's going well but have you ever made friends with people who then desert you when you most need them? Who deny you their presence when life seems to fall apart, their support when you are falling down and their trust when you most need it? We've all had this experience and we know how painful it is when we discover a friendship turns out not to be what we thought it was and it cuts even more deeply when that 'friend' is a brother or sister in Christ. It's a comfort that we can be certain Jesus knows exactly how this feels and understands.
"Jesus knows exactly how this feels"
This reflection isn't a call to forgive those friends who perhaps were not able to behave as friends should - and I should stress that whilst forgiveness is important it does not necessarily mean the restoration of even a cherished friendship - rather I'd like you to see this as a call to value your friendships and to invest as much time and energy as you can in them. Whether these friends came about by a seemingly happy accident as sometimes happens with neighbours and colleagues or through shared interests and concerns, friendship is a gift of God. Do what Jesus did and spend time with your friends in ways that you both need.
But if, as sometimes happens with human relationships, friends seem thin on the ground as you stumble along the way, be encouraged by remembering this: you do not walk alone:
'One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.' Proverbs 18:24
A Prayer for Journeying
God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit
be shielding and saving me,
as Three and as One,
by my knee, by my back,
by my side,
each step of the stormy world.
From Carmina Gadelica
Director: Wales and South West England
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