Christian Friendship, Moderator:
As we begin this series on authentic friendship, we focus on the perfect model of all true friendship, Jesus Christ, whom we owe all praise and thanksgiving for the apostolate of holy friendship.
I think it appropriate to also acknowledge with gratefulness those whom I call friends; the very people who inspire this reflection on true friendship, and their sincere desire to always improve in their Christian vocations and virtue. There are many special people whom God has placed in my path and blessed me so richly with on this earthly journey. You know who you are. And I know you are wonderful images of Christ among us, as you place Him at the center of all you strive to be and do in this life. I am truly grateful for each and everyone of you.
And finally, I cannot miss the opportunity to acknowledge those friends of heaven; the saints so dear to me, St. Therese, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. Thomas Aquinas, whom I lean on constantly; whose lives and writings have inspired, nurtured and carried me through. In this series it is foremost the inspiring wisdom and spirituality of St. Josemaría Escrivá and his chips off the old block, as I call them, that the reflective writings to follow are most attributed to, who also counted St. Therese, St. Teresa and St. Thomas among their friends. As our former pastor was fond of saying, "that we shall all someday meet merrily in heaven.." (St. Thomas More). I pray it is so.
Now we begin with Christ Jesus as our model of real friendship.
Part I: Jesus, Authentic Friendship
The following passages were compiled by the moderator.
Fr. Francis Fernandez Carvajal:
"We Christians should give our friends understanding, attention, encouragement, consolation, optimism and joy, along with many acts of service."
"Friendship has to be protected and defended against the forgetfulness which comes with the passage of time."
"Christians should be men and women with a great capacity for friendship, because close contact with Jesus Christ prepares us to put aside our egoism, our excessive preoccupation with personal problems. We can thus be open to all those who meet us along the way, even though they be of different ages, interests, cultures or positions. Real friendship is not born of a mere occasional meeting, or simply from mutual need of assistance. Not even camaraderie, a shared task or the same roof will necessarily lead to friendship. Two people who cross paths every day on the same escalator or the same bus, or in the same office are not thought to be friends. Neither is mutual sympathy, in itself, a proof of genuine friendship.
According to St. Thomas, not all love equals friendship, but only that love which involves benevolence. This is the attitude where we care for someone in such a way that we want that person's good. There is a greater possibility of friendship when there is a great reason to share the good which one possesses. True friends are those who have something to give and, at the same time, have sufficient humility to receive. This behaviour is proper to virtuous men. When vice is shared it does not produce friendship, but complicity, which is not the same thing. Evil can never be legitimized by a fake friendship. Sin never joins people together in friendship of love. (italics, J. Abad, Faithfulness, Madrid 1987)
Jesus enjoyed speaking with everyone who came to see him, and with those he met along the road. He took advantage of those moments to enter into souls, to raise up hearts to a higher plane. If the person concerned was well disposed, Jesus would give him or her the grace to be converted and make a commitment to his service. He also wants to speak with us in the time of prayer. For this to happen we have to be willing to talk and be open to real friendship. He himself has changed us from being servants to being friends, as he clearly stated: "You are my friends if you do what I command you" (John 15:14). He has given us a model which we should imitate. As a result, we have to give our willingness as a friend, telling him what we have in our soul and paying close attention to what He carries in his heart. Once we open up our soul, He will reveal his own. The Lord declared: "I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you (John 15:14). The true friend hides nothing from his friend. He reveals all of his spirit, just as Jesus poured into the hearts of the Apostles the mysteries of the Father." [St. Ambrose, About the work of ministers, 3, 135]
We Christians should give our friends understanding, attention, encouragement, consolation, optimism and joy, along with many acts of service. But, above all, we should give them the greatest good we have, which is Christ himself, the "Best Friend" of all. True friendship leads to apostolate, we share the wonderful goods of the faith.
Friendship has to be protected and defended against the forgetfulness which comes with the passage of time. It also has to be safeguarded from envy, which is usually what is the most corruptive force."[St. Basil, homily on envy]
(Moderator): In my spiritual reading I came across this from the writings of St. Maximus the Confessor (+662): "Be on guard lest the vice that separates you from your brother be not found in your brother but in you; and hasten to be reconciled to him, lest you fall away from the commandment of love. Do not disdain the commandment of love, because by it you will be a son God. If you transgress it you will become a son of Gehenna. What separates you from the love of friends is this: envying or being envied, hurting or being hurt, insulting or being insulted, and suspicious thoughts. May you never have done or experienced any of these things by which you might be separated from your friend's love."
Fr. Francis continues:
"Friends are expected to be loyal, to be faithful in difficulties, to overcome the test of time and contradictions, to come to the defense of one another in the hour of need. As St. Ambrose counsels, Be steadfast in friendship, because there is nothing so precious in human relations. It is a great consolation in this life to have a friend to whom we can open our heart. It helps a lot to have a friend to share our joys and sorrows, and to sustain us in hard times." [St. Ambrose, About the work of ministers, 3, 134]
We should strive to be friends with our Guardian Angels. We all need a lot of company from Heaven and company on earth. Have great devotion to the Holy Angels! Friendship is a very human thing, but it is also very much a thing of God; just as our life is both human and divine. Our Guardian Angel will not be put off by our moods and defects. He knows our weaknesses, and in spite of them he loves us very much. (italics: St. J. Escriva, Friends of God, 315)
Over and above all friendships we must work to strengthen our bonds with that great friend, who will never fail you. (J Escriva) In Him we will truly learn how to be friends of our friends. We will be open to every sincere friendship, knowing that this is the natural road for Christ, our Friend, to enter souls."
"A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter - he that has found one has found a treasure. There is nothing so precious as a faithful friend, and no scales can measure his excellence." [Sir. 6 14-17]
Let us pause this very moment and say a special prayer for the friends Our Lord has blessed us with, and that we in turn will be good friends to them and our greatest friend of all.
Excerpts used: passages attributed to Fr. Francis Fernandez Carvajal (In Conversation with God, various selections), unless otherwise indicated within the text.
Next, Part II: Christian Friendship; Understanding
"True friendship also means making a heartfelt effort to understand the convictions of our friends, even though we may never come to share them or accept them". ~Saint Josemaría Escrivá~