Today’s Gospel Reading at the Sunday Mass comes from John 1:35-42, and it offers a perspective on Christ Jesus’ teaching about friendship.

    John was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” — which translated means Teacher —, “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come, and you will see.” So they went and saw where Jesus was staying, and they stayed with him that day. It was about four in the afternoon.
    Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus. He first found his own brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah” — which is translated Christ —. Then he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas” — which is translated Peter.


From Socrates to Saint Thomas Aquinas, writers from every spectrum of faith and divine rebellion for hundreds of years had pondered the subject, definition, and meaning of friendship, but by the seventeenth century it had become a dead subject, and even today you would be hard pressed to find a book written on the meaning, value, and importance of friendship.
Socrates thought that it was impossible to know that he was a friend (to someone else) without having knowledge of what friendship is. In other words, he thought that one needed to know the construct (definition) of what he was engaging in before he could rightly engage in it. Aristotle taught that there are three different kinds of friendship; (1) utility, (2) friendship of pleasure, and (3) virtuous friendship. He also argued that friendship should be highly valued because it is complete virtue; even above honor and justice. According to Aquinas, true friendship was based on unselfish love for another person, and what is meant by ‘unselfish love’ was the “constant, effective desire to do good to another”.
Taking up the subject of friendship again from a Christian perspective, I wrote the following excerpt in Chapter Four of Cooperating with God: Life with the Cross.
Jesus' Teaching on Friendship“There are two types of people who we can surround ourselves with in this life; that is, those who, through relationship with them, our progress In Christ is helped, and those who, through relationship with them, our progress In Christ is hindered. While the former type of friend always desires the best for us, for God’s sake, the latter desires for us something less than that, for their own sake.
Some people say good friends are hard to find. I do not have any evidence to suggest that old adage is actually true, but I do know that if you pray for God to place good friends in your life, they will find you and you them, just as the Christ prayed the night before finding His. Indeed, good friends are everywhere in the Circle of Grace and, through prayer, God gives us the grace to discern exactly who they are.
Some people say, ‘I am my child’s parent – not their friend.’ I ask, ‘What’s the difference?’ Jesus’ definition of friend is someone who knows His Father’s will and obeys His command to love (Cf. Jn. 15:14, 15). People who say that they cannot be their child’s friend have no clue what a real friend is or even what a true parent is. Here is a riddle: If I were to tell you that I love you unconditionally, that I love you no matter the cost, that I would die for you, that I hope to never lead you into sin, and that I will always desire the best for you – Who am I? Am I your parent or your friend? What is even more ridiculous is that the very same people who say that they cannot be their child’s friend would not say, ‘I am my husband’s wife – not his friend.’ They know very well that the latter goes hand in hand, even while they deny the intimate union between the former.
The sixth chapter of the book of Sirach offers us a number of insights into how we should discern who our true friends are. Obviously, some of Sirach’s proverbs are much better understood through the light of Christ Jesus, but the proverb that I love the most is the last, “For he who fears God behaves accordingly, and his friend will be like himself.” Indeed, man cannot find his best friend in a dog and neither can woman find hers in a diamond, but only in Christ Jesus is true friendship found, and to the degree that Christ dwells in those who we love, the better friend they will be for us.
The Johannine account of this Didactic Mystery is clear – friendship with Jesus begins with discipleship. Notice that after Andrew and the other disciple were told by John the Waymaker that Jesus is “the Lamb of God,” how they then immediately began following Him. “Jesus turned and saw them and said, “What are you looking for?” Their counter-question, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” was an answer in and of itself – this is how a follower becomes a disciple (an apprentice) – he moves into the home of the Master to study both his way of life and his trade. Christ Jesus said, “If you remain in my word [[home/love]] you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (Jn. 8:31-32). Indeed, those who are free are truly friends of God, but what is this truth that sets us free? It is called divine love! It is the love of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us and empowers us to, both, discern the will of God and to love on God’s creation as we were commanded to do. To love in this way is to be a true friend of Christ Jesus! If you want to be a friend of God – if you want to be a saint, then follow Christ Jesus all of your life.
Whether given or received, friendship is always a free gift from God, and like all true gifts, it is better given away, but always a joy to receive. When we truly understand that friendship is love, we can better accept the meaning of God’s friendship, because God is Love (1 Jn. 4:8), and when we trust God as our friend, it becomes easier for us to both freely give our friendship away and to discern the authenticity of what we are receiving. Love always desires the best for its object of love!”
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PRAYER FOR GOOD FRIENDS
Lord God, surround me with people who desire the best for me,
and use me to desire your good for all those in whose life you place me.
In Jesus’ name I pray.
Amen.

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Scripture texts in this blog are taken from the New American Bible with Revised New Testament and Revised Psalms © 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
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