“Not every friendship is praiseworthy and virtuous, as in the case of friendship based on pleasure or utility.” –From “Sermon in a Sentence: A Treasury of Quotations on the Spiritual Life; Vol. 5: St. Thomas Aquinas,” pg. 92. Selected and Arranged by John P. McClernon.
This strikes me hard, in particular, because I know I have these types of ‘friendships’, those that are not really friendships at all, but are based on a common activity, like a job or a class, or a need, a utility. We cannot call those people friends if they do not possess the most vital characteristic of any human being–possession of the true faith. By vital, I mean that this is the element that gives them life, vitality. It is what gives the life of grace to the soul. How can one’s soul be alive in grace unless they hold to the true faith? And how can a live person be friends with a dead person? “What fellowship hath light with darkness” (2 Cor. 6:14, DRA)? They simply cannot work. These so-called ‘friendships’ cannot be called by the name of friend. That name, that sweet name of ‘friend’, has been so profaned so that we do not know the difference anymore between who is our friend and who is not. We are always wary because we do not know who to trust. Those who call themselves our friends are often times only using us for whatever material goods or social esteem they can get from us. And if we have nothing to offer? Well…you can say goodbye to many of those so-called friends.
No, the measure of a true friend lies in their ability to be a brother to you–truly a brother in the faith, and not a brother according to the world. They must comfort you, weep with you, rejoice with you, and be willing to help you at any time, through hardships and prosperity, through joys and sorrows. They cannot be a ‘fair-weather’ friend, taking what they can get during the good times but betraying you and leaving you all alone in the bad times.
And what’s more–we must also be a friend to them. Scripture tells us that when we find a good friend, we should treasure him more than all the silver and gold in the world! (Sirach 6:14-17) And how else do we treasure a true friend than by being one to him? If true friends were so rare in Scriptural times, how much more so are they today? If you find a true friend, do not let him slip away by treating him with indifference and a lack of charity! We must reserve this precious title for him, this title of ‘friend’, and use it only for those who truly deserve it, not for those who are simply along for the ride at our place of work, school, or our neighborhood.
Let us pray during this holy season of Lent for a true friend if we do not have one, and for the grace to treasure our true friends should we have them, and thank God for this most precious gift of friendship!