On March 15, Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Archbishop of Galveston-Houston, spoke to the Boston College community about friendship in the Gospel of John. Cardinal DiNardo claimed that there is “something about John’s Gospel that is special.” Drawing on Scripture and the early Church Fathers, the Cardinal presented a long meditation on the Church, rooted in one word: caritas.
Caritas is the Latin form of the Greek word agape, which is translated love in English. Caritas love is unconditional and selfless, and is central to understanding friendship in the Gospel of John. The most important form of caritas, according to Cardinal DiNardo, is that which allows people to abide in one another. The Cardinal began with the very beginning of John’s Gospel, where Jesus calls the disciples. Jesus asks them where they live, or where they abide. It is from this instance of abiding that DiNardo unpacked the rest of John’s Gospel.
DiNardo talked about chapter six of John, where the “Bread of Life” sermon is given by Jesus. In it, the apostle Philip claims there is not enough food to give the hungry crowd that has gathered. Jesus multiplies the loaves of bread to abundance, leaving the people amazed.
DiNardo pointed out that this is not the whole story. The next day, Jesus claims, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world” (John 6:51). The Greek word for masticate is used here. The crowd reacts harshly, wondering how they could truly eat Jesus, and why, not doing so, they would not abide in Him. Cardinal DiNardo had a very simple answer to their questions: “To believe is the greatest grace. To abide in Jesus is to eat flesh for the life of the world.”
The idea of “abiding in Jesus” reaches its climax at the Last Supper. DiNardo said that the “reality of Christ shows in the Last Supper.” Jesus told his disciples that unless they abide in Christ, they cannot do anything. Moreover, to abide is to “no longer [be called] servants” but to be called “friends” (John 15:15). To abide in Jesus is to have caritas for one another. The Paschal mystery (the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus) is the ultimate expression of love and friendship.
DiNardo summarized Christ’s friendship by quoting the Gospel, saying, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another” (1 John 4:11). He told the audience, “What Jesus promises us is so elevated and close to us in abiding in him.”
DiNardo ended his talk with a plea for everyone to draw near to Jesus: “If you want to get close to abiding with Jesus, go up to the cross of Jesus and stare into the side of Jesus and you will see the broken heart of the Father.”
Finally, the Cardinal asked, “How can we witness unless we live with and abide in Jesus?” To witness, he claimed, is to abide in the caritas of Jesus Christ.