In practice, the Church entirely shares this view. She gives high regard to familial ties, crucially and celebrating the central bond in the public liturgy now associated with the Sacrament of Marriage. In my experience, even when the Scripture readings at Mass directly address the subject of friendship, it is typically replaced by love, and this is rapidly restricted to signify either disinterested charity or romantic involvement. Similarly, in typical Church publications. Whereas the family has been proclaimed to be the foundation of society [Gaudiem et Spes #52], and this with no little justice, the more fundamental virtue of friendship has been neglected. Without the leaven of friendship, the boundaries of the family become the fracture lines of society. The very word "insula" means both "family home" and "isolationist". Friendship is the only basis on which a strong civic society can be built. Sadly, the Church has no more time for friendship than does secular society.
Strangely, friendship is given much greater regard in many works of contemporary fiction and drama: "Dances with Wolves"; "The Shawshank Redemption"; "The Lord of the Rings"; "Star Trek"; "Babylon V"; "Will and Grace"; "Farscape" and "Dawson's Creek" are examples that spring to mind. The tension between this instinct to uphold friendship as of profound importance and its popular denigration is made especially clear in the way in which the ending of the film "Dances with Wolves" differs from its literary original. In the book, the hero (and his wife) remain with the tribe of Native Americans that adopted them and so he stays with his "best friend", its Medicine Man. In the film he leaves the tribe, to the obvious distress of the Medicine Man, but this decision is portrayed as the only sensible option open to him. Even in the Lord of the Rings, the friendship of Frodo and Samwise proves to be of less importance than Sam's concern to set up home and start a family in the Shire. Perhaps Tolkein felt compelled to this resolution of the situation by his Catholicism. Even so, it is strongly hinted that in the end, Sam and Frodo are reunited as Ring Bearers in the Ultimate West of Faeryland.
Plato knew none of this. For him marriage
was a social necessity, in order to procreate children to populate the
state. However, significant relationships were invariably between men,
whether these had any sexual content or not. Largely this was because Plato
generally accounted women as intellectually and spiritually inferior to
men (interestingly, he repeatedly expresses exactly the opposite view in
his masterwork "The Republic" and also "The Laws").
Plato suggests that friendship is the basis of justice, the true foundation of politics:
"Well then, Alchiabiades, what about a city? What is it that is present and what will be absent when a city is in a better condition and getting better management and treatment?"He tended to believe that the basis of friendship was a certain similarity of persons:
"When two people are virtuous and alike, or when they are equals, we say that one is a friend of the other; but we also speak of the poor man's friendship for the man who has grown rich, even though they are poles apart. In either case, when the friendship is particularly ardent, we call it love." [Plato: Laws 837a]Yet admitted that this was not always the case; as indeed was true of the ill-fated friendship of Socrates for Alchibiades:
"And a violent and stormy friendship it is when a man is attracted to someone widely different to himself, and only seldom do we see it reciprocated." [Plato: Laws 837b]He was generally inclined towards the positive value of overtly homosexual relationships, especially as a bulwark against tyranny: He explained his perception that homosexuality is regarded as shameful by barbarians in the following way:
"In .... places .... which are subject to the barbarians .... the love of youths shares an evil repute with philosophy and gymnastics, because they are inimical to tyranny. The interests of such rulers require that their subjects should be poor in spirit and that there should be no strong bonds of friendship or attachments among them, which such love, above all other motives, is likely to inspire. Our Athenian tyrants learned this by experience: for the love of Aristogeiton and the constancy of Harmodius had a strength which undid their power.Nevertheless, he disinguishes between a spiritual love of friendship based on "a mature and genuine desire of soul for soul" and a carnal lust "which shows no consideration for the beloved's character and disposition." [Plato: Laws 837c] and taught that the noblest and most valuable form of love knew nothing of physiological infatuation
"Someone who loved you [rather than just what you posess] would love your soul" [Plato: Alchibiades 131c].Interestingly, for Plato, the value of love could be judged by the offspring that it produced. This principle seems to be apposite to heterosexual romanto-erotic and domestic relationships; but he saw it as hugely favouring the love of two men (friends), for the fruit that would certainly spring from this love would be spiritual progeny of wisdom, virtue and intellectual discovery.
"You are as prone to love as the sun is to shine; it being the most delightful and natural employment of the soul of man: without which you are dark and miserable. Consider therefore the extent of Love, its vigour and excellency. For certainly he that delights not in Love makes vain the universe, and is of necessity to himself the greatest burden. The whole world ministers to you as the theatre of your Love. It sustains you and all objects, that you may continue to love them. Without which it were better for you to have no being. That violence wherewith sometimes a man doteth upon one creature is but a little spark of that love, even towards all, which lurketh in his nature. We are made to love, both to satisfy the necessity of our active nature, and to answer the beauties in every creature. By Love our Souls are married and solder'd to those of other creatures: and it is our duty like God to be united to them all. We must love them infinitely, but in God, and for God; and God in them: namely all His excellencies manifested in them. When we dote upon the perfections and beauties of some one creature, we do not love that too much, but other things too little. Never was anything in this world loved too much but many things have been loved in a false way: and all in too short a measure."Plato also taught that it was possible for human beings to become friends of God:
"But what if man had eyes to see true beauty - divine beauty, I mean, pure and dear and unalloyed, not clogged with the pollutions of mortality and all the colors and vanities of human life - thither looking, and holding converse with true beauty simple and divine? Remember how in that communion only, beholding beauty with the eye of the soul, he will be enabled to bring forth, not images of beauty, but realities (for he has hold not of an image but of a reality), and bringing forth and nourishing true virtue to become the friend of God and be immortal, if mortal man may." [Symposium]
“For a friend is another myself,”Moreover, he argues in Summa Theologica [II(2) Q27#7] that there is a sense in which one's love for a friend is of more account and virtuous than disinterested love for one's neighbour (or enemy!), because
"a friend is both better and more closely united to us, so that he is a more suitable matter of love and consequently the act of love that passes over this matter, is better, and therefore its opposite is worse, for it is worse to hate a friend than an enemy".Moreover, he observes that:
"just as the same fire acts with greater force on what is near than on what is distant, so too, charity loves with greater fervour those who are united to us than those who are far removed; and in this respect the love of friends, considered in itself, is more ardent and better than the love of one's enemy".Following Plato, he asserts that:
“Society is maintained through friendship .... so let legislators do their utmost to preserve friendship among citizens …. to avoid dissensions; for concord is assimilated to friendship” [In Ethic., lib. 8, l. 1 n. 5]He argues that the ultimate vocation of Man is to become the Friend of God, [II(2) Q27#1] for to be united with another spirit in love is what Friendship is all about:
"Yet neither does well-wishing suffice for friendship, for a certain mutual love is requisite, since friendship is between friend and friend: and this well-wishing is founded on some kind of communication. Accordingly, since there is a communication between man and God, inasmuch as He communicates His happiness to us, some kind of friendship must needs be based on this same communication, of which it is written [1 Cor. 1:9]: 'God is faithful: by Whom you are called unto the fellowship of His Son'. The love which is based on this communication, is charity: wherefore it is evident that charity is the friendship of man for God."
In contrast, the central "good" or "benefit" associated with sexual bonding is the procreation of offspring - which "Nature", "the Species" or "the Selfish Genome" is very interested in, but which is of no rational account to the individual whatsoever (I except the notion that children have an obligation to care for their aged parents, it is not generally speaking in their own interest to do so - though they certainly have some species of reciprocal obligation to do so, given the enormous investment made in them by their parents!) Moreover, "being in love" is quite clearly irrational and a form of mental derangement, as any one who has experienced the phenomenon will testify, though some approvingly!
"The world is best enjoyed, and most immediately, while we converse blessedly and wisely with men. I am sure it were desirable that they could give and receive infinite treasures: and perhaps they can. For whomsoever I love as myself, to him I give myself and all my happiness, which I think is infinite: and I receive him and all his happiness. Yes, in him I receive God, for God delighteth me for being his blessedness: so that a man obligeth me infinitely that maketh himself happy; and by making himself happy, giveth me himself and all his happiness."
In summary, Lewis argues that:
The matter of Scriptural teaching on Friendship is dealt with extensively below.
"FRIENDSHIP is a union of spirits, a marriage of hearts, and the bond thereof virtue. There can be no friendship where there is no freedom.
St Maximos the Confessor on Friendship
"Nothing can be compared to a faithful friend. This is because he regards his friend’s misfortunes as his own and supports him in hardships until his death." [Maximos the Confessor: "The Four Hundren Chapters on Love" #93]
Sprache Zarathustra", by Nietzche.
"One is always too many about me"- thinketh the anchorite. "Always once one- that maketh two in the long run!" I and me are always too earnestly in conversation: how could it be endured, if there were not a friend? The friend of the anchorite is always the third one: the third one is the cork which preventeth the conversation of the two sinking into the depth. Ah! there are too many depths for all anchorites. Therefore, do they long so much for a friend and for his elevation. Our faith in others betrayeth wherein we would fain have faith in ourselves. Our longing for a friend is our betrayer. And often with our love we want merely to overleap envy. And often we attack and make ourselves enemies, to conceal that we are vulnerable.While I do not agree with some of what Nietzche writes here, on the whole I find this to be a profound, poignant and accurate account of friendship:
Our faith in others betrayeth wherein we would fain have faith in ourselves. Our longing for a friend is our betrayer. And often with our love we want merely to overleap envy. And often we attack and make ourselves enemies, to conceal that we are vulnerable.A friend can help supply for our own personal inadequacy. As long as we are honest with ourselves this is fine, but the danger is that we will not relish admitting our own need and violence will be directed against the friend as a smoke-screen in order to avoid admitting our own need to ourselves.
"Be at least mine enemy!" - thus speaketh the true reverence, which doth not venture to solicit friendship. If one would have a friend, then must one also be willing to wage war for him: and in order to wage war, one must be capable of being an enemy. One ought still to honour the enemy in one's friend. Canst thou go nigh unto thy friend, and not go over to him? In one's friend one shall have one's best enemy. Thou shalt be closest unto him with thy heart when thou withstandest him.This is the teaching we will shortly meet in [Pro 27: 5-7]. The true friend will criticize not flatter; oppose not pander to one's foolishness; witness to the truth, not say what one thinks one wants to hear - even at the risk of loosing that friendship. For, as high-lighted in an episode of the TV situation comedy "Will and Grace", not to risk loosing the friendship at the cost of not being faithful to it is to destroy it directly.
Thou canst not adorn thyself fine enough for thy friend; for thou shalt be unto him an arrow and a longing for the Superman.We are all called to be a sign of contradiction for our friends; to challenge each other from our lethargies, to lift our eyes up from our the domestic hum-drum to the horizons of spiritual possibilities; to the calling we each have to Divinization, Union with God and becoming co-heirs with Christ of the Kingdom! There is no end to our possibilities, if we are open to what they may be. Don't say that you can't interpret dreams or prophecy! It is God's grace that releases such possibilities; our only role is to get in the way! It is the job of the friend to coax one ever onward and upward.
Let thy pity be a divining: to know first if thy friend wanteth pity. Perhaps he loveth in thee the unmoved eye, and the look of eternity. Let thy pity for thy friend be hid under a hard shell; thou shalt bite out a tooth upon it. Thus will it have delicacy and sweetness. Art thou pure air and solitude and bread and medicine to thy friend? Many a one cannot loosen his own fetters, but is nevertheless his friend's emancipator.Sometimes sympathy and support are what is required, sometimes not! Sometimes what is required is a certain harshness, a willingness to correct or challenge or deny. Sometimes one can help another, by one's distance from the situation or dilemma in which he is caught up, whilst being unable to help oneself. While it is futile for "the blind to lead the blind" or "to attempt to remove a splinter from the eye of another with a beam of wood in one's own", we can often help each other if only we have the courage to make the attempt.
Art thou a slave? Then thou canst not be a friend. Art thou a tyrant? Then thou canst not have friends.Who is the slave? Someone who is concerned to satisfy the desires of others; not their own. Who is the tyrant? Someone who wishes to impose their will on others. The slave; the sycophant; the hypocrite, these cannot be trusted as friends, because they will not speak truth - even the truth as they believe it - because they are concerned only to please others. They have no concern for truth or substance, but only pretence and appearance. The tyrant; the conceited, the hauty; these are not interested in having friends, because they cannot countenance opposition or challenge. They have no concern for objective reality. They think that by asserting their will sufficiently they can change reality, but as Ayn Rand so graphically puts it "A" is "A" and always will be. The slave and tyrant are made for each other, and for their mutually assured destruction.
Far too long hath there been a slave and a tyrant concealed in woman. On that account woman is not yet capable of friendship: she knoweth only love. In woman's love there is injustice and blindness to all she doth not love. And even in woman's conscious love, there is still always surprise and lightning and night, along with the light. As yet woman is not capable of friendship: women are still cats and birds. Or at the best, cows. As yet woman is not capable of friendship. But tell me, ye men, who of you is capable of friendship?I don't think that it is right of Nietzche to attribute to "Woman" this human deficiency. Perhaps he meant "romantic partners". If so, his words become fair comment. Romantic love is often blind to failings in the beloved, and would justify any amount of injustice in order to achieve its objectives. Similarly parental love. What evil wouldn't a father countenance in order to save the life of his child? All types of familial love are essentially biological, irrational and amoral in their basis. The challenge to all of us is to rise above this to the level of rational self-interest and mutual regard and help. Sometimes the friend has to sacrifice his friend for the sake of what they both hold dearly to be true; and the friend would think less of him if he did not do so.
Oh! your poverty, ye men, and your sordidness of soul! As much as ye give to your friend, will I give even to my foe, and will not have become poorer thereby. There is comradeship: may there be friendship!This echoes the teaching of Christ, when He warns that we should not just be generous to "our friends". What we typically think (in our bankruptcy) of appropriate behaviour towards a friend, is in reality only appropriate for all and sundry; indeed those who have our ill in their hearts! True friendship demands so much more.
"I have often thought that the most important thing in the world is friendship; for friendship is a love that comes to us as a gift, and though it is passionate it is also wise. I've never had many friends, but I cherish all the more the few friends I have. They are precious to me. I have never had a sexual relationship, never been "in love"; but I have been loved, because I have had friends. And in my experience, the only romantic relationships that last are those that either began in friendship or find their way there. Perhaps one of the reasons why friendship is so denigrated in contemporary culture is simply because it is omnipresent, mingled in all the other loves to a greater or lesser degree (and thereby ennobling and strengthening them)." [April 2004]I suggest that a conjugal love not based on friendship, but rather on the passing phenomenon of physiological sexual attraction is sub-human and unworthy of the christian faithful [Gaudiem et Spes #49]. It would not be sacramental of the relationship of Christ and the Church. It would be an incontinent union, an affront to justice and the Holy Spirit.
"First of all, nature itself by an instinct implanted in both sexes impels them to such companionship, and this is further encouraged by the hope of mutual assistance in bearing more easily the discomforts of life and the infirmities of old age." [Catechism of the Oecumenical Council of Trent:
"By matrimony, therefore, the souls of the contracting parties are joined and knit together more directly and more intimately than are their bodies, and that not by any passing affection of sense of spirit, but by a deliberate and firm act of the will; and from this union of souls by God's decree, a sacred and inviolable bond arises.....Cardinal John Henry Newman wrote of his intimate friend Ambrose St John:
"From the first he loved me with an intensity of love, which was unaccountable…As far as this world was concerned I was his first and last."When Ambrose St John died in May, 1875 John Henry Newman was undone. He said that the loss was the "greatest affliction I have had in my life" and then went further, writing:
"I have ever thought no bereavement was equal to that of a husband’s or a wife’s…but I feel it difficult to believe that any can be greater, or any one’s sorrow greater, than mine."A year later, Newman declared:
"I wish, with all my heart, to be buried in Fr Ambrose St John’s grave - and I give this as my last, my imperative will."
27: 5-7], which comes from the mouth of an enemy. The wise man will
be faithful to his true friend, who will stand by him in the day of adversity
27:10]. Sirach expands the teaching of Proverbs [Sir
6:5-17] counselling that a friend should be accepted as such only
after much testing. He says that a faithful friend is "a
sturdy shelter", "the elixir of life"
and "a most precious treasure", something
beyond all valuing of excellence. It is suggested that one reward
for fearing the Lord is that a man will have (a) faithful friend(s). He
also councils against forsaking an old friend, because friendship matures
like wine [Sir 9:10]. He says that betrayal
by a friend is "grief to the death" [Sir
In his anguish at being betrayed by an intimate friend [Ps 54:12-15] the psalmist describes such a one as his "equal", with whom he "used to hold sweet converse" and "within God's house .... walked in fellowship". The word friend occurs frequently in the book of Job, generally with reference to Job's self-styled "friends"; but on one occasion [Job 6:14] there is a proper use of the term: "He who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the fear of the Almighty", a most stern judgement.
The book of Wisdom tells us that one becomes God's friend (and
his prophet!) by gaining wisdom [Wis 7:14,27],
because there is nothing that God approves of more highly than the wise
man [Wis 7:27-28]. Similarly, the Psalmist
tells us that [Ps 24:14] "the
of the Lord is for those who fear Him, and he makes known to them
His covenant". I am sure that Jesus had this text
in mind when He told his Apostles that they were His friends.
The greatest example of a friendship in the Old Testament is, of course, that of David and Jonathan [I Sam 18:3-4; 20:4-17; 20:41-42, II Sam 1:26]. It is not fair to dwell on this, as it is so charged with passion that it is not perhaps typical of friendship. It is, of course, not clear how reciprocal the affections were between the two men. It has always struck me that Jonathan was the more ardent, and that David was seduced somewhat in spite of himself (and his undoubted womanizing nature) by the other man - yet it is manifest that he was seduced [I Sam 20:41, II Sam 1:26] and later, heart-broken. The Vulgate has an addition to this last verse in which David says of Jonathan "As the mother loveth her only son, so did I love thee". I know exactly what the author meant!
The story of Ruth and Naomi is just as touching and the commitments made just as extravagant and enduring, with no suggestion of any eroticism. Note that Ruth did all the kind of things that no sensible person would ever do for a friend: give up homeland, family and religion! [Ru 1:16,17]
The most amazing verse relating to our topic is to be found in Isaiah [Isa 41:8], where God remarks, tenderly, but almost in passing that Abraham was his friend! The significance of this statement is beyond belief. Friendship is a two-way enterprise. It is impossible for a friendship not to involve parties acting towards each other as equals (see my summary of St Thomas' teaching, above). The very idea that God should view any created being as a friend is almost scandalous! The way in which God appeared to Abraham as the Trinity of Mamre and declared that he had chosen Abraham [Gen 18:19] and then allowed Abraham to argue with him is indicative of the intimacy of the relationship that existed between them. The Apostle James picks up on this in his Epistle [Jas 2:23] where he stresses that Abraham's justification was through the relationship that He had with God, of faith in God's promises, open-ness in hospitality to God's gracious visitation and faithfulness to God's commands.
Perhaps the most obscure example of someone being identified as God's friend is that of Moses' father-in-law, Jethro the priest of Midian [Ex 3: 1, 18:1]. When first introduced [Ex 2:18] he is called "Reu-el", which literally means "Friend of God" [NRSV Study Bible]. I suspect that this was his title of office. It may be because Moses excercised a similar role of leadership for the Hebrews to which Jethro exercised for the Midianites, that Moses is also spoken of [Ex 33:11] as God's friend. Nevertheless, the relationship between Moses and God is clearly more intimate than that between Jethro and God, and Moses is given the singular grace of a theophany [Ex 33 17-23].
I find an aching poignancy in the account of Moses' dealings with God [Ex 32:9-10,14, Ex 33:14]. Like Abraham, Moses argues with God to show mercy for sinners and God listens to him: apparently reluctantly, almost as a petulant child! Abraham dares to rely in his argument on God having found favour in him, and asking for a favour in return!
Although Elijah is not spoken of as God's friend explicitly, he also is graced with a theophany and has a somewhat tempestuous relationship with God, though now it is generally a matter of God showing a petulant and impatient Elijah what is right, rather than the other way round!
".... a good friend provides a secure place for the heart. That's partly because [friendship] involves bonding between two people by free choice; it exists outside the bounds of duty or office or functions. (You don't have to be friends with anyone: it can't be forced.) Martha, Mary, Jesus and Lazarus apparently had a freely chosen relationship probably because they simply liked each other. Another quality of genuine friendship is that friends are guardians of one another's souls. They have enough trust that they can challenge each other. The disciples to Jesus: 'Don't go back there to Judea to Lazarus' wake; they were trying to kill you only a few days ago.' Martha and Mary to Jesus: 'Lord, if you had only been here our brother would never have died.'
[This] reminds me of a story told about the mystic Teresa of Avila. She prayed that she might have a safe trip somewhere. Instead, it was a disaster: delays, accidents, storms. When she finally got where she was going, she complained to God about how poorly God had taken care of her. 'But Teresa,' the Lord said, 'I don't treat you any differently than I do any other of my friends.' To which Teresa replied: 'Then, it's no wonder you have so few of them.' In the same way, Martha and Mary challenged their good friend Jesus. Friends can provoke each other into great deeds.....I contend that, the basic human value championed by Christ, the ideal that all else should be judged by and all should aspire to was friendship [Mat 12:46-50]. Indeed, I go further and say that Jesus' preaching of the Kingdom of God should be understood in a very simple way: namely the proclamation that the solution to all the world's woes is the general adoption of mankind of the paramount virtue of friendship. Our Lord cautioned that unless we "became as children" (for whom friendship is typically second nature), we could not hope to enter the Kingdom of God [Mk 10:14-15].
I want to make myself very clear. I am saying that the core of Christianity is simply the notion that people should be friends: first with God, and then with each other. That is all. There is nothing else of worth. The whole of the rest of the doctrinal structure is there just to support and clarify this message [Mk 12:33]. If some doctrine seems to have no such role. then either that doctrine is false or you have misunderstood it. Clearly, the two central Traditional doctrines of the faith: Trinity and Incarnation are easy to understand from this perspective. Trinitarianism proclaims that God is "Love In Itself" [1Jn 4:16]; He is Eternal Community, Fellowship and Friendship. Incarnationalism proclaims that God came to be one of us; to be our Friend-at-Hand [1Jn 4:9-10] in order to lead us back to the friendship with God, which we had lost.
People sometimes say, "You don't have to go to Church to be a Christian." Well, they are right on a number of levels, as well as wrong on others. What really matters isn't one's religious observance, but one's social observance! God doesn't really care about details of ceremonial or lusty singing or learned preaching or earnest exhortations: though these have their place. All that really matters is that we do justice in our daily lives: that we are friends one to another. Then society will prosper and all will be happy. The genius of Judeao-Christianity is its confusion of religion and ethics. For many other religions these are separate affairs, and deities are capricious or supposed to be subject to manipulation by means of ritual. The prophets (and Jesus) clearly teach the contrary (as does Plato): that the essence of true religion is "Justice for All", and that formal religion is only of any merit in as far as it supports this single object.
This Credo is a simple and practical message. One that is comprehensible by all [Mt 11:20] and would be very simple to adopt. Indeed it is amazing that humanity has never done so. Others as diverse as Douglas Adams (in his "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy") and "Bill and Ted" have advocated or intimated the same idea: that we should "be excellent to each other".
I suspect that the reason there has been only a limited uptake of the idea, both within and without the Church is that other strategies of behaviour tend to work better unless a friendship group has a certain size. Hence the instinct of many who take the faith particularly seriously to adopt the religious style of life, one based on community, commonality and equality rather than on family and hierarchy.
Typically within human society, those at the top act so as to suppress conspiracies (another word for friendship group) on the basis of divide and rule [Mt 10:17-22]. It never seems to the powerful to be in their interests to encourage friendship.
and is the basis for reconciliation [Lk 17:3-4, 19:8-10] when an offence has been committed.
St Peter paints a wonderful picture of a Christian community based on friendship in his first Epistle [1 Pet 4:8-10].
St John's epistles are all about love. He only uses the term "friend", in his third Epistle, when addressing Gaius [3Jn 1] (Jerusalem and New English Bibles) and in describing the Church as "the friends" [3Jn 15]. The Apostle generally prefers the word "brother". I suggest that the answer to his question [1Jn 3:1-2] regarding what is the destiny of "the children of God", is that they are to become "the friends of God", alongside Abraham, Moses and Elijah. The Apostle makes it quite clear that "love" is not some abstraction but a practical reality in our lives [1Jn 3:18], "faith without works is dead", as the Apostle James tells us [Js 2:16]. John teaches that it is quite impossible to love God and not love our fellow Christians [1Jn 4:20-21]. In his third epistle he commends a clear example of friendship in action [3Jn 3-8].
St Jude seems to caution that a certain distance be maintained between the faithful Christian and those involved in grave sin, for fear of some kind of contamination [Jd 23] (though according to the RSV, the Greek is uncertain); and indeed the virtue of prudence does council caution when putting oneself in the way of temptation. However, it was not the way of Jesus to distance himself from sinners and it is surely more Christ-like to gently seek to win back to the path of justice the friend who has strayed from it rather than to play safe: being primarily concerned to preserve one's own righteousness.
The Witness of St PaulFriendship is blind to culture, gender, race and status [ Rom 10:12, Rom 11:32]. It is based on the mutual regard and utility of persons [Rom 12:5, I Cor 12:13], who defer to each other out of respect [Rom 12:10, Gal 5:13, Eph 5:21]. Friends are essentially equals [Eph 2:19], and have deep affection for each other [Phlp 4:25-30, Col 4:7-18]. Friends avoid dissension and shouldn't quarrel [1Cor 1:10,11], they should settle what disputes arise among their own number [1Cor 6:1-8]. Friends bear each other's burdens, in adversity [Gal 6:2] and ceaselessly strive to help each other [Gal 6:10, Thes 3:11-12], which is the basis of justification. perfect society built on friendship. It subsists in the Catholic Church, which is the Fellowship of the Friends of God, the Mystical Body of Christ. The Church is at fault for not preaching the fundamental significance of friendship with sufficient clarity and force. It is the very essence of what it means to be Church [1Cor 12&13]. There are many examples of "friends" in the Christian Tradition, Sts Perpetua and Felicity, Sergius and Bacchus, and Polyeuct and Nearchusare obvious examples. St Aelred, Abbot of Rievaulx had a great deal to say about the subject too.
"Christian charity is Friendship to all the world; and when friendships were the noblest things in the world, charity was little, like the Sunrise drawn in at a chink, or his beams drawn into the centre of a burning glass; but Christian charity is friendship expanded like the face of the sun when it mounts above the eastern hills; and I was strangely pleased when I saw something of this in Cicero .... Nature has made friendships and societies, relations and endearments; and by something or other we relate to all the world; there is enough in every man that is willing to make him become our friend; but when men contract friendships they enclose the Commons; and what Nature intended should be every man's, we make proper to two or three. Friendship is, like rivers and the strand of seas, and the air, common to all the world; but Tyrants, and evil customers, wars, and want of love, have made them proper and peculiar."Cardinal Ratzinger expresses his understanding of the central Christian vocation as follows:
The Lord addresses these wonderful words to us: 'No longer do I call you servants ... but I have called you friends' [Jn 15:15]. Many times we simply feel like useless servants, it is true [cf Lk 17:10]. And, despite this, the Lord calls us friends; he makes us his friends; he gives us his friendship. The Lord defines friendship in two ways.Ratzinger's vision of Divine Friendship is distorted. In conformance with the teaching of the New Catechism (of which he was the principle author) he places obedience at the heart of friendship. Now in any friendship apart from friendship-with-God, it seems to me that this is manifestly absurd. Only in marriage is there any notion that a deep relationship could be one-sided and involve the subjection of one individual's will to that of another; and I would argue that even in marriage this is quite wrong; and never envisaged by St Paul! The true friend of God argues and struggles with The Lord - like Abraham and Jacob and Elijah and Jonah and Jeremiah - and does not simply say "yes sir". This is the difference between being a "servant of God" and a "friend of God". Indeed it is only within such argument and struggle that the friend of God - as also, it would seem, the human soul of Our Blessed Lord and God - is liable to discover what is truely God's Will: which is never any different from what is good and just and wholesome and "for the best".In the hour of Gethsemane, Jesus transformed our rebellious human will into a will conformed and united with the divine will. He suffered all the drama of our autonomy and, in carrying our will in God's hands, he gave us true freedom: 'Nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will' [Mat 26:39]. In this communion of wills our redemption takes place: to be friends of Jesus, to become friends of God. The more we love Jesus, the more we know him, and the more our genuine freedom grows, as well as the joy of being redeemed. Thank you, Jesus, for your friendship! [Cardinal Ratzinger: homily preached before the conclave that elected him pope Benedict XVI]
To speak in the terms that Ratzinger uses is to risk giving the impression that God's will is partizan and particular, like the will of any other moral agent, and that it is the business of the Christian to conform to the party line on all matters. While a convenient doctrine for Ecclesiastics, it is almost exactly the opposite of the truth. God does not have a point of view: His are all points of view. God does not have a policy: God simply is Love. Hence, friendship with God does demand "obeying Jesus' commandmants"; but these are twofold only, and nothing more than the heart of the Torah: "Love God" and "Love your neighbour".
When we pray "fiat voluntas tua, sicut in caello et in terra", we are not asking God to somehow rescind human freewill and rule within the Cosmos by tyranical dictat! First we are simply reminding ourselves that just as "God is in Heaven" and "is Holy", so also "His Will is done everywhere: both in physical reality and the realm of spirit", in spite of appearances. Second, we are expressing our longing for the elimination of injustice from this world.
Ratzinger is, however, right when he says that "Friendship with Christ coincides with what the third petition of the Our Father expresses: 'Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven'". However, I fear that he has no understanding of the truth of his words. Where (wo)men become friends of God; there God's will is done: because friends of God are like God - become divinized - and show forth Love in their lives. "Wherever love and charity abide: there God is". In other words, it is not necessary to obey God in order to be His friend. Rather, it is true that all those that Love - that hunger and thirst after justice - do in fact "do God's Will" and so are His friends.
In his first Encyclical on "Love" Ratzinger, singularly neglected the topic of friendship. Nevertheless, he did say:
"Love of neighbour .... consists in the very fact that, in God and with God, I love even the person whom I do not like or even know. This can only take place on the basis of an intimate encounter with God, an encounter which has become a communion of will, even affecting my feelings. Then I learn to look on this other person not simply with my eyes and my feelings, but from the perspective of Jesus Christ. His friend is my friend." [Benedict XVI "Deus Caritas Est"]
to Him in the Blessed Sacrament, though this is inexcusable! He cares deeply
that we continue to disregard His simple and direct teaching to love our
neighbours as ourselves: because He sees all too clearly the mess that
this gets us into.
"To question the will of God on some level is a part of what true faith is all about. It is not always looking for a loophole but rather it is confirming to ourselves that we have truly heard from God and that we heard Him correctly. It is not wrong to question the will of God. It is not wrong to struggle with Him and to have our occasional doubts. What is wrong is to allow those doubts to outweigh our faith in God. So feel confident in the fact that your faith and devotion to God is not measured by the struggle with your faith or your questioning of God's will, but rather by your willingness to follow that will in the end."Jesus wants to be your "Best Friend". You should respond with wonder, and seek to live out the kind of life that will give Him joy and some degree of consolation. The repentance of a sinner, such as yourself, causes much rejoicing in Heaven! Turn to Holy Spirit and ask for the grace to be a friend to Jesus in those you meet in your daily life. Tell Jesus that you love Him, and want to be close to Him in his passion for sinners. Then seek to live by Gospel values, confident that when you fail there is always another chance. Worlds without End!
Ever living God: I ask for the greatest of your gifts.
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