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January 30, 2015

Jill Boyce
February 2015

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.…I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. John 15:12-16

Jesus considered the disciples to be friends. A small band of men, chosen by Jesus to companion him on his journey, grew in friendship and love. I’ve been pondering the meaning of the word companion recently, as I have the privilege of co-facilitating a small group of people engaging the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola over a 30-week period. Folks commit to a daily practice of prayer and meet together weekly for two hours of guided prayer, individual reflection, and sharing. God’s Spirit illuminates new understandings both individually and together, while we serve as the companion(s) to these faithful folks in their own unique journeys of discovery.

Companion historically is derived from “with” from the Latin “com,” and “panis” (bread). So the meaning is “with whom one eats bread.” It is said to be a reminder that eating together is more than feeding the body; it also nourishes generosity and friendship. More modern definitions emphasize the accompanying of another as a guide, helpful friend, or a person with whom one travels.

My pondering the word companion arises from being midway through the offering of the Spiritual Exercises. Our small group has just spent a week of daily prayer time reflecting on Jesus befriending his first disciples, and, as John records, saying to Andrew and Simon Peter: “What are you looking for?” and “Come and see.” Jesus addressed their longings with a question and offered an answer with the invitation to follow. John says, “they came and saw where he was staying and they remained with him that day.”

Imagine that day of visiting. Jesus must have offered them a gracious and generous time, full of warmth, wisdom, kindness, hope, and freedom to be themselves. The reality of being listened to and truly heard allowed for a true exchange as friends while Jesus taught them. They probably shared a simple meal in a humble home. The first disciples saw something remarkable in the person of Jesus, a love so profound they were immediately drawn to follow. He was their companion, and they were his. They followed him into ordinary circumstances of shared dwellings, meals, and time together as he taught them about a personal loving God. Jesus demonstrated a counter-cultural, radical love through healing and serving the most unexpected people on the margins of society. How Jesus lived and what he claimed could only be experienced as shocking, given his identity as Messiah and Son of God. It was in accompanying Jesus over time, I suspect, that the disciples’ friendships deepened with Jesus and love grew.

Similarly, Jesus is accompanying the individuals of the small group walking through the Spiritual Exercises this year. Jesus draws each person into a deepening friendship with Himself, oneself, and others. The Holy One’s presence seems to be meeting each person in his or her reality of life, helping them to see themselves as God’s beloved creation, increasingly able to hear God’s unique call. Thankfully, Jesus is the true Companion of their journeys. Love is in the air. It is a privilege to participate.

Jill Boyce is a spiritual director and chaplain, with a background in public health and advanced education in theology. She is co-leading the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises for New College Berkeley and First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley.

Posted on January 30, 2015 at 11:25 AM

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