Third Sunday of Lent

Sunday 19 March 2017

Dear Friends in Christ,

The first principle of Evangelical Catholicism says that “the Lord Jesus is the crucified and risen Savior of all mankind, and no human person can fully understand his life or find his dignity and destiny apart from an authentic friendship with the Lord Jesus. It is not enough to know who Jesus is; we must know Jesus.” This last distinction is crucial for a life of genuine discipleship. It is possible to know who Jesus is — for decades — without ever really knowing Jesus, and those who merely know who he is cannot be participants in Christian faith and life; they are spectators only. But how do we come to know him? How can we have an authentic friendship with the Lord Jesus?

The Savior himself gives us the answer to these questions in his teaching recorded in Chapter 15 of the Gospel of John. The scene is the Upper Room at the Last Supper, a setting which gives special urgency to the words of the Lord Jesus: “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. This is my commandment: love one another as I love 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 no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told everything that I have heard from my Father. It was not you who chose me but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain.” (John 15.9-16)

The Lord Jesus calls us his friends because he has told us everything given to him by his Father. This is the supernatural gift of divine revelation – the Gospel which is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe. When we receive this sacred teaching with the obedience of faith, then we are strengthened by grace to love one another in the truth and to keep the commandments, not as an effort to earn a place in God’s kingdom but as a consequence of our having been made a new creation by the grace of Baptism, a grace that is renewed every time we go to Confession and worthily receive the Most Holy Eucharist.

As with any friendship, our friendship with Christ deepens over time as we come to know the Holy Scriptures more thoroughly, as we learn to pray more devoutly, as we seek to serve those in need with greater charity, as we acquire a Christian view of the world more completely, and as we surrender ourselves in love to Christ and his Church with greater conviction. During these 40 Days, as we prepare to renew the promises of our Baptism when we celebrate the Passover of the Lord, this deepening of our friendship with the Lord Jesus should be our constant goal and guide, and that, in turn, prepares us to fulfill the eighth principle of Evangelical Catholicism: “All the baptized are sent in the Great Commission to be witnesses of Christ to others and must be equipped by the Church to teach the Gospel in word and deed. An essential dimension of true discipleship is the willingness to invite others to follow the Lord Jesus and the readiness to explain his Gospel.”

Father Newman