At that time, Jesus said His to His disciples: This is My commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends, if you do the things that I command you. I will not now call you servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doth. But I have called you friends; because all things whatsoever I have heard of My Father, I have made known to you. You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you; and have appointed you that you should go, and should bring forth fruit; and your fruit should remain: that whatsoever you shall ask of the Father in My name, He may give it you.
Verse 14. You are my friends.) A wonderful condescension, says S. Aug. in our blessed Redeemer, who was God as well as man, to call such poor and sinful creatures, his friends; who, when we have done all we can, and ought, are still but unprofitable servants. I have called you my friends, because I have made known to you, &c. We can only understand these words, as S. Chrys. takes notice, of all things which they were capable of understanding, or which it was proper to communicate to them; for, as Christ tells them in the next chap. (v. 12.) I have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. Wi.
Verse 16. O ineffable grace! For what were we, before Christ chose us, but wretched and abandoned creatures? Such we were; but now we are chosen, in order that we may become good by the grace of Him that hath chosen us. S. Aug. tract. 86. in Joan.
803: Concerning the Increase of Justification Received
Council of Trent SESSION VI (Jan. 13, 1547) Decree On Justification Chapter 10
Having, therefore, been thus justified and having been made the “friends of God” and “his domestics” [John 15:15; Eph. 2:19], “advancing from virtue to virtue” [Ps. 83:8], “they are renewed” (as the Apostle says) “from day to day” [2 Cor. 4:16], that is, by mortifying the members of their flesh [Col. 3:5], and by “presenting them as instruments of justice” [Rom. 6:13, 19], unto sanctification through the observance of the commandments of God and of the Church; in this justice received through the grace of Christ “faith cooperating with good works” [Jas. 2:22], they increase and are further justified [can. 24 and 32], as it is written: “He that is just, let him be justified still” [Rev. 22:11], and again: “Be not afraid to be justified even to death” [Sirach. 18:22], and again: “You see, that by works a man is justified and not by faith only” [Jas. 2:24]. And this increase of justice Holy Church begs for, when she prays: “Give unto us, O Lord, an increase of faith, hope and charity” [13th Sun. after Pent.].
12. This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. 13. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. 14. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. 15. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his Lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. 16. Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.
THEOPHYLACT. Having said, If ye keep My commandments, ye shall abide in My love, He shews what commandments they are to keep: This is My commandment, That ye love one another.
GREGORY. (Hom. xxvii. in Evang.) But when all our Lord’s sacred discourses are full of His commandments, why does He give this special commandment respecting love, if it is not that every commandment teaches love, and all precepts are one? Love and love only is the fulfilment of every thing that is enjoined. As all the boughs of a tree proceed from one root, so all the virtues are produced from one love: nor hath the branch, i. e. the good work, any life, except it abide in the root of love.
AUGUSTINE. (Tract. lxxxiii. 3) Where then love is, what can be wanting? where it is not, what can profit? But this love is distinguished from men’s love to each other as men, by adding, As I have loved you. To what end did Christ love us, but that we should reign with Him? Let us therefore so love one another, as that our love be different from that of other men; who do not love one another, to the end that God may be loved, because they do not really love at all. They who love one another for the sake of having God within them, they truly love one another.
GREGORY. (Hom. xxvii.) The highest, the only proof of love, is to love our adversary; as did the Truth Himself, who while He suffered on the cross, shewed His love for His persecutors: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. (Luke 23:34) Of which love the consummation is given in the next words: Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Our Lord came to die for His enemies, but He says that He is going to lay down His life for His friends, to shew us that by loving, we are able to 1 gain over our enemies, so that they who persecute us are by anticipation our friends.
AUGUSTINE. (Tract. lxxxvi. 1) Having said, This is My commandment, that ye love one another, even as I have loved you, it follows, as John saith in his Epistle, that as Christ laid down His life for us, so we should lay down our lives for the brethren. (1 John 3) This the martyrs have done with ardent love. And therefore in commemorating them at Christ’s table, we do not pray for them, as we do for others, but we rather pray that we may follow their steps. For they have shewn the same love for their brother, that has been shewn them at the Lord’s table.
GREGORY. (Hom. xxvii.) But whoso in time of tranquillity will not give up his time to God, how in persecution will he give up his soul? Let the virtue of love then, that it may be victorious in tribulation, be nourished in tranquillity by deeds of mercy.
AUGUSTINE. (viii. de Trin. c. viii) From one and the same love, we love God and our neighbour; but God for His own sake, our neighbour for God’s. So that, there being two precepts of love, on which hang all the Law and the Prophets, to love God, and to love our neighbour, Scripture often unites them into one precept. For if a man love God, it follows that he does what God commands, and if so, that he loves his neighbour, God having commanded this. Wherefore He proceeds: Ye are My friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.
GREGORY. (xxvii. Moral.) A friend is as it were a keeper of the soul. He who keeps God’s commandments, is rightly called His friend.
AUGUSTINE. (Tract. lxxxv. 2) Great condescension! Though to keep his Lord’s commandments, is only what a good servant is obliged to do, yet, if they do so, He calls them His friends. The good servant is both the servant, and the friend. But how is this? He tells us: Henceforth I call you not servants, for the servant knoweth not what his Lord doeth. Shall we therefore cease to be servants, as soon as ever we are good servants? And is not a good and tried servant sometimes entrusted with his master’s secrets, still remaining a servant? (c. 3.). We must understand then that there are two kinds of servitude, as there are two kinds of fear. There is a fear which perfect love casteth out; which also hath in it a servitude, which will be cast out together with the fear. And there is another, a pure (castus) fear, which remaineth for ever. It is the former state of servitude, which our Lord refers to, when He says, Henceforth I call you not servants, for the servant knoweth not what his Lord doeth; not the state of that servant to whom it is said, Well done, thou good servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord: (Matt. 25:21) but of him of whom it was said below, The servant abideth not in the house for ever, but the Son abideth ever. Forasmuch then as God hath given us power to become the sons of God, so that in a wonderful way, we are servants, and yet not servants, we know that it is the Lord who doth this. This that servant is ignorant of, who knoweth not what his Lord doeth, and when he doeth any good thing, is exalted in his own conceit, as if he himself did it, and not his Lord; and boasts of himself, not of his Lord.
But I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard of My Father, I have made known unto you.
THEOPHYLACT. As if He said, The servant knoweth not the counsels of his lord; but since I esteem you friends, I have communicated my secrets to you.
AUGUSTINE. (Tract. lxxxvi. 1) But how did He make known to His disciples all things that He had heard from the Father, when He forebore saying many things, because He knew they as yet could not bear them? He made all things known to His disciples, i. e. He knew that He should make them known to them in that fulness of which the Apostle saith, Then we shall know, even as we are known. (1 Cor. 13:12) For as we look for the death of the flesh, and the salvation of the soul; so should we look for that knowledge of all things, which the Only-Begotten heard from the Father.
GREGORY. (Hom. xxvii.) Or all things which He heard from the Father, which He wished to be made known to His servants; the joys of spiritual love, the pleasures of our heavenly country, which He impresses daily on our minds by the inspiration of His love. For while we love the heavenly things we hear, we know them by loving, because love is itself knowledge. He had made all things known to them then, because being withdrawn from earthly desires, they burned with the fire of divine love.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. lxxvii. 1) All things, i. e. all things that they ought to hear. I have heard, shews that what He had taught was no strange doctrine, but received from the Father.
GREGORY. (Hom. in Evang. xxvii.) But let no one who has attained to this dignity of being called the friend of God, attribute this superhuman gift1 to his own merits: Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you.
AUGUSTINE. (Tract. lxxxvi. 3) Ineffable grace! For what were we before Christ had chosen us, but wicked, and lost? We did not believe in Him, so as to be chosen by Him: for had He chosen us believing, He would have chosen us choosing. This passage refutes the vain opinion of those who say that we were chosen before the foundation of the world, because God foreknew that we should be good, not that He Himself would make us good. For had He chosen us, because He foreknew that we should be good, He would have foreknown also that we should first choose Him, for without choosing Him we cannot be good; unless indeed he can be called good, who hath not chosen good. What then hath He chosen in them who are not good? Thou canst not say, I am chosen because I believed; for hadst thou believed in Him, thou hadst chosen Him. Nor canst thou say, Before I believed I did good works, and therefore was chosen. For what good work is there before faith? What is there for us to say then, but that we were wicked, and were chosen, that by the grace of the chosen we might become good?
AUGUSTINE. (de Prad. Sanct. c. xvii.) They are chosen then before the foundation of the world, according to that predestination by which God foreknew His future acts. They are chosen out of the world by that call whereby God fulfills what He has predestined: whom He did predestinate, them He also called. (Rom. 8:30)
AUGUSTINE. (Tract. lxxxvi. 3) Observe, He does not choose the good; but those, whom He hath chosen, He makes good: And I have ordained you that ye should go, and bring forth fruit. This is the fruit which He meant, when He said, Without Me ye can do nothing. He Himself is the way in which He hath set (ἔθηκα, posui) us to go.
GREGORY. (Hom. xxvii.) I have set you,i. e. have planted you by grace, that ye should go by will (volendo not in Vulg.); to will being to go in mind, and bring forth fruit, by works. What kind of fruit they should bring forth He then shews: And that your fruit may remain: for worldly labour hardly produces fruit to last our life: and if it does, death comes at last, and deprives us of it all. But the fruit of our spiritual labours endures even after death; and begins to be seen at the very time that the results of our carnal labour begin to disappear. Let us then produce such fruits as may remain, and of which death, which destroys every thing, will be the commencement.
AUGUSTINE. (Tract. lxxxvi. 3) Love then is one fruit, now existing in desire only, not yet in fulness. Yet even with this desire whatever we ask in the name of the Only-Begotten Son, the Father giveth us: That whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in My name, He may give it you. We ask in the Saviour’s name, whatever we ask, that will be profitable to our salvation.