Friendship as the path to sainthood

  • April 18, 2024

Have you watched the series The Chosen? If yes, then you like me have been treated to a well-produced and Biblically-faithful, yet embellished account of Our Lord’s earthly ministry. The manner in which Jonathan Roumie portrays Jesus Christ is very human and relatable without diminishing His divine nature, thereby being faithful to the Gospel. Our Lord is shown to delight in beauty. He is joyful, laughs and enjoys a good meal. And He heals and demonstrates the divine insight into people’s lives that only He has.

One of the most revealing aspects of this portrayal is Jesus as friend, particularly in His friendship with the Apostles. Our Lord is shown to be the greatest friend in always lifting up those around Him, caring for them, calling out the best in them, urging them on to be the saints they are called to be. What He desires most for them is the salvation only He offers.

A priest friend of mine once said to me that we must remember that those who come into our lives are there for our salvation. God presents us with opportunities to meet them and in those meetings to see Him, to see His image and likeness, an image and likeness that we too bear. Some of these interactions might be brief, one-off meetings with a kind server in a shop or restaurant, with a homeless person we reach out to or to someone we meet on a train or plane or ferry as we travel. They are fleeting, but offer us an occasion to learn about another person, perhaps to hear about their joys or their struggles, to find a common personhood in them.

Other friendships are of a time and place, such as friends that we make in school or in our work. Many of them are more than transactional, they are friendships that help us to integrate into a community where we grow through various experiences, some of which might be very formative indeed. Some of these friendships might last for several years. Yet often as we get older and geographic distance or changing priorities intervene the friendships wane. In their waning, we come to understand that these types of friendships will come and go, that they are part of our lives, and we are thankful for them.

Christian, and in our case Catholic, friendships are of another order all together. We must earnestly desire these friendships, seek them out and assiduously cultivate them. In doing so, we will be infinitely blessed as we journey with that friend on the path to sainthood. This was illustrated to me by a good friend at the beginning of our friendship when we could see that the friendship would be a great gift. At that time, he wrote in a card to me, “Let’s become saints together.” If that is not an apostolic exhortation, I do not know what is! It is indeed a fitting and true goal.

I have been blessed with several very close Catholic friends and the greatest delight I take in those friendships is when I see my friend as God made him to be, when he shows me what it means to join oneself to Christ. We truly come to see Christ in that friend and we, in a sense, become in persona Christi to one another. We reveal Christ to one another, but only if we are faithful. Our greatest responsibility in these friendships is to be faithful to God above all else and therefore to be faithful to our friend. This fidelity helps us attain that goal of Christian friendship: to become saints together.

Our Lord defines friendship in this way, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.” These are the friends we truly love; they are like other selves. They are the friends who become our best man or maid of honour, godparents to our children, tried, trusted and true friends in whose presence we long to be and who we long to serve. “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honour.”  These friends have come into our lives for our salvation and we for theirs. In this life, in hac lacrimarum vale, this must be the greatest friendship that can ever be.

(The Reverend Andrew Bennett is a deacon of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Toronto and Eastern Canada.)

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