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Friends, in today’s Gospel, Jesus announces to his disciples: “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 you everything I have heard from my Father.”

Many mysticisms and philosophies of the ancient world—Platonism and Gnosticism come readily to mind—spoke of God or the sacred, but they spoke of it as a force or a value or an ontological source. It was impersonal and at an infinite remove from the world of ordinary experience. These ancient schools find an echo in many modern and contemporary theologies. Think of deism, which was so influential on the founders of the United States, or even the New Age philosophy of our time. These speak of a “divine” principle or power, but one would never dream of addressing such a force as “thou” or of engaging with it in intimate conversation.

Then there is the Bible. The Scriptures obviously present God as the overwhelming, transcendent, uncontrollable, inscrutable Creator of the heavens and the earth, but they insist that this sublime and frightening power is a person who deigns to speak to us, to guide us, and to invite us into his life. 

In making that utterance—“I no longer call you slaves, but friends”—Jesus turned all of religious philosophy and mysticism on its head.