One another

What is friendship? Often we will make reference to someone we know as a friend, we hear children speaking about their best friend, and even couples will refer to their significant other as not only their spouse, but their closest friend as well. According to the dictionary a friend is “a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection.” 

In this weekend’s Gospel, we hear Jesus referring to His disciples as His friends, chosen by Him. Individuals whom He selected to be His confidants, His closest friends, and who He knew and trusted to carry out His mission and continue the work He had begun — even if they didn’t. Jesus saw something in them, that they did not know they possessed or were capable of.

Like Jesus, those individuals we allow into are lives are ultimately our choice. We befriend individuals who exemplify our beliefs, enjoy doing the same things, and who we feel confident that have our best interests in mind or as they say, “have our backs.” These are the individuals in our lives who will stop everything to help us in time of need, or when we just need someone around to listen to us. They see in us something that mirrors who they are, and together we learn to discover new or hidden talents, helping each other to shine. There is a song that exemplifies this type of friendship and love — “Wind Beneath My Wings” by Bette Midler, which speaks of the love and strength of a friendship, and what one will do in the name of that love. 

Which brings us back to Jesus and the love He had for His disciples and continues to have for us. Jesus’ friendship went beyond the mere constraints of our humanness, to our whole being. Jesus, like many of our closest friends, sees beyond our physical appearance, recognizing the beauty of the Spirit within. Jesus truly loves us for who we are, not what we look like, what position we hold in life, or how much money we have stashed away. He sees us through the lens of love, a love that wants only the best for their beloved. 

Jesus is inviting us to be His friend, to trust in Him, to rely on Him, and to go to Him whenever we are happy, sad, feel accomplished or despondent, and every other time in between. Like our friends, He wants us to come running every time we have good news or just need a shoulder to lean on. He wants us to know He is always there for us, regardless of what is happening in our lives. And like any true friend, even if distance prevents us from spending more time with each other, He is there waiting for us with open arms every time we return. 

Jesus, like any true friend, wants to be an integral part of our lives, being there throughout life’s ups and downs; at times in the forefront of our lives, and at others, the supporting arm holding us up when we feel lost and alone. 

But one thing we must remember is that every friendship has its requirements. Before we can befriend another person, we must allow them in, we must be willing to allow them to see every aspect of who we are. We must become vulnerable, trusting that they will become the strength that makes up for what we lack, and we in turn fill in the voids in their lives. 

Jesus fully understood the strengths and weakness of the disciples, as He knows ours, and it was the strengths He saw that led Him to them. They chose to follow Jesus because they recognized something in Him they were lacking in their lives. This bond allowed them to feel His presence in their lives, giving them the fortitude they needed to persevere after His death and Resurrection. For this trust and willingness to follow and believe in Him, Jesus allowed us to see His vulnerabilities, humbling Himself for us, and ultimately sacrificing Himself in the final act of true friendship — of laying down one’s life for a friend. 

We are challenged to truly love one another, to see beyond the surface, and to acknowledge that we are all sisters and brothers, all children of God. The message of the Gospel is to love as Jesus loves us, to put another’s need before our own, and to recognize that we are not complete without the love of each other. In a world that insists that we take, that we should only look out for our own best interests, put our needs first, and to seek out only what is gratifying, it is slowly becoming shallow and lonely. Yes, sometimes it hurts to put ourselves out there, and not all relationships bear fruit, but yet, if we do not dare to love, and care for others, how do we expect to find love and friendship? Jesus’ mission is pretty clear — “remain in My love — and love one another.” 

Anchor columnist Rose Mary Saraiva is Events Coordinator and Bereavement Ministry for the diocesan Office of Faith Formation. 

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