One of the greatest treasures a person can have is a solid friendship. The husband and wife having a solid friendship, the individual having a solid friendship with God, are an inspiration.
Friendships do not come easy. We have to work every day to cultivate a solid friendship with another. Whether we like to admit it or not, the requirements of a friendship are so demanding that most people have few friends. In a beautiful article written by Henry Adams many years ago, he said, "to have one friend in life is much, two are rare, three are hardly possible." We could easily apply the words of the Gospel to friendship. Many are called, but few are chosen. This is the fact of our life. Many people come into our lives, we become close to them and form the bonds of friendship, and then we part company.
There is no doubt in my mind that if the young were taught the importance of friendship or if the elderly had one solid friendship, their lives would not only be different, but happier.
As Catholics, in particular, we are taught there are seven sacraments. Somewhere along my training, I remember a theologian saying that there should be eight. The eighth sacrament in his mind was the "sacrament of friendship."
I am always inspired by the frequent uses of the word "friend" by Christ in the New Testament. "I did not come to call you my servants, but my friends." "Greater love than this no one has than he who lays down his life for a friend." I also believe that Christ, in the betraying act of Judas, must have experienced great sorrow and disappointment in being betrayed. When Christ said to Judas in the Garden of Gethsemane, "Friend, for what purpose have you come?" he was showing how hurt he was.
Friendship helps us cope with loneliness and depression. Friendships do not totally remove loneliness and depression, but they strengthen us along the journey of life. One French writer said, "there is no life worthwhile unless it is lived in relationship with another." And it is so true.
Is there a risk in trying to cultivate a friendship? There certainly is. Can you be hurt and disillusioned? Yes, you can. But the rewards far outweigh the risk. A friend is an ally when an alliance is needed. A friendship is a partnership where two people try to understand each other, not just for their own individual happiness, but for the safeguarding of their friendship.
A friend is one who nurses us in our sickness, defends our honor and name when the situation requires it. The real mark of friendship, true generosity, occurs during a crisis. The giver places no sense of indebtedness or feelings of obligation on the friend receiving the acts of generosity. Being on the "receiving end," however, is often a difficult part of friendship to accept. I think this was what Christ had in mind when he said, "greater love than this no one has than he who lays down his life for his friend."
Call friendship a personal treasure. Call it the Pearl of great price. Life is always enriched and uplifted when we cultivate a solid friendship. No one is too old that he or she cannot develop a wonderful friendship. No one is too young that they cannot learn all the ingredients necessary for the cultivation of lasting friendships.
This issue of Spirituality for Today is written as a challenge: think on the friendships in your life. They can never be taken for granted. You must work at your friendship with God, and all your individual friendships. If you take your friend for granted or you are indifferent to the needs of your friend, you are harboring negative qualities that prevent that friendship from growing.
This edition of Spirituality for Today is written on the theme of friendship. We hope it will help you, our readers, recognize that this eighth sacrament, "the sacrament of friendship", will bring greater love and joy into your life.