John: face to face with friendship

Chapter 11 of John's gospel is traditionally understood as the conclusion of the 'book of signs' which begins with the wedding at Cana in John 2. It begins with a wedding and ends with a (near) funeral. References to Hugh Grant aside, I like reading the miracles (or signs) in the context of Jesus' social life: family gatherings, village celebrations, friendships sustained.

When Mary and Martha send a message to Jesus,
Lord, he whom you love is ill. (John 11.3)

they are reminding Jesus of his longstanding relationship with their family. Their words are a request for help, recalling friendship and hospitality codes of the time. Supporting a friend in need or sorrow was a serious duty that could not be dismissed lightly. And the disciples know this too. When Jesus eventually leaves for Judea, a the location of previous conflicts with the authorities, Thomas says to the other disciples,
Let us also go, that we may die with him. (John 11.16)

Becoming friends involves faithful committment through times of sorrow, difficulty and even death. It means being present at all the weddings, and the funerals too.

What I like about Thomas, whom we often call 'doubting,' is that his doubts and fears are not the end of the story. Rather they are a springboard for action.

The same week as John 11, another class had me reading Emmanuel Levinas reflecting on how we meet God in the other. Levinas talks of being a hostage to the other, always responsible for them without ever having chosen to be so. And it is our care for others that we find God:
The goodness of the Good - the Good which never sleeps or nods - inclines the movement it calls forth, to turn it from the Good and orient it towards the other, and only thus towards the Good...

He does not fill me up with goods, but compels me to goodness, which is better than goods recieved.

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