Psalms 18:1-20,* 18:21-50; Exodus 16:10-21; 1 Peter 2:11-25; John 15:12-27
The word friend is a real nuanced one. We call people friend who are acquaintances, people whom we have just met, all the way along the spectrum to people who know our deepest and most secret parts of ourselves.
We also call our pets our friends, in particular dogs who go by the title "man's best friend". And most dogs deserve that title as can be attested by the people who own and love them: they are loving and kind animals who just want to be loved and be with the individuals with whom they have bonded. I can attest to this personally. My new dog Allie, who I adopted 4 weeks ago has quickly bonded to me, although she still has nightmares that I believe are from her first 12 months of life where she was neglected and abused. I can be having the most dreadful of days and her greeting and love and playfulness and joy at seeing me can help put things into perspective and bring me out of a developing funk. This is an example of this rare thing called unconditional love that is so difficult for us to accept, mimic and accomplish.
The kind of friend Jesus is referring to in today's Gospel from John is not the acquaintance type, but is something much deeper. We know this because he addresses his disciples as "friends" immediately after ordering them to follow his "commandment" that "you love one another as I have loved you." He then talks about dying for his friends. That is an awesome thing to contemplate and a rare thing to understand, to say nothing about experience. But that is the nuance to the word friend in today's Gospel: and a deep and powerful nuance it is.