When friendship is tested

I suppose everyone wants to have friends. It’s kind of difficult to imagine a person who does not like to have friends, since we, in general, are wired to be always in relation with others, and that relation, which can take many forms, is basically achieved through friendship.

There is an old Roman definition of friendship that expresses it this way: “idem velle, idem nolle,” which roughly means, “the same desires or likes, the same dislikes.” In other words, friends are supposed to have such a union of wills that they would like the same things and would dislike the same things also.

It’s a good definition, except that it has to be taken in its proper context. And that context is what God likes and dislikes. In other words, the union of wills should first begin with the union of our will and God’s will.

The union of wills should not just be based on our own personal wills. Otherwise, we would end up being merely subjective in our own likes and dislikes, and the moment we disagree on something, then we would cease to be friends.

That would not be the friendship proper to us as persons and, most especially, as children of God. That would be caricaturizing friendship, distorting it, or giving an appearance of it without the real essence of it, something that, sad to say, is quite common these days. Thus, even among the so-called today’s friends, there is a lot of backbiting, backstabbing, treachery, deception, and hypocrisy.

We need to see to it that we like what God likes, and we dislike what God dislikes. And what God likes and dislikes are shown in his commandments and are concretely personified in the life and example of Christ.

And what does God like and dislike as shown and taught to us by Christ? We are told that we have to love our neighbor, which means everyone, including those who give us troubles, those who may be regarded as our enemies.

Thus, Christ told us, nay, commanded us to love even our enemies. (cfr. Mt 5,44) He always tried to reach out to the lost sheep, the lost coin and the prodigal son, to the irritation of the self-righteous Pharisees and scribes of his time.

Christ was willing to assume all the sins of men by going through his passion and death on the cross. Besides, he offered forgiveness to those who crucified him. We have to be ready to go through this process of real love and friendship because this is the very paradigm of love and friendship.

That is why Christ told us that if we are not willing to detach ourselves from earthly things, including those who are close to us like our parents, children, and even our life, if we are not willing to deny ourselves and carry our cross, we would not be his disciples. We would not be true friends and lovers of God and of everyone and everything else in this world.

You can just imagine what training, formation, and discipline we have to go through to follow this teaching and example of Christ, to be able to be true friends and lovers of God and of everyone else!

While things can look overwhelming, we know that God is willing to give us the necessary grace. All that is needed is for us to correspond to that grace.

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