by Sister Helen Feeney, CSJ

Topics suggested for Spirituality for Today may vary like the stars in the sky, in fact, like the many wonders of God's creation. The current subject has posed a challenge, a most difficult one to put into word. Why? Could it be that as a topic it delves into the vast sea of one's emotions?

Friendship is an interaction between two people that may take place during the many phases of life. Sometimes it begins very quickly in a calm, peaceful atmosphere. It also has the capability of evolving from an initial antipathy. Occasionally, it comes like a bolt out of the blue and captivates without any warning. A friendship may last for a brief period of months or years, according to the circumstances surrounding it. More often, it nurtures one from childhood to old age.

There are many kinds of friendship. A playmate with another peer; a young child with his grandfather; a high school student with a classmate; a teacher with former student; a working kinship with a partner. No matter with whom the friendship is shared, it all begins with a relationship bought about by a circumstance that sparked a trust and confidence, bathed in a special kind of love.

Some liken friendship to life's garden wherein friends take the form of variety of beautiful flowers. In my ponderings, friendship is analogous to an ocean liner or vessel, where friends are the fellow or sister voyagers traveling with me over the waters of life. No matter what the analogy, there is a certainty that there would be a tremendous void in life without friends.

A true friend is someone who listens to us with real concentration and expresses sincere care for our struggles and pains. He or she makes us feel that something very deep is happening to us. Slowly, fear melts away, tensions dissolve and anxieties retreat. It is then we discover that we carry within us something we can trust and offer as a gift to others. The simple experience of being valuable and important to someone else has a tremendous, creative power. It is the enabling force that a special friend births.

Paramount in friendship is one's interpersonal relationship to Christ, our brother. In Christ's own words, He calls us "friends" not "slaves." He yearns for our loving trust and intimate sharing not only when problems overwhelm us, but in our everyday pleasantries and encounters.

To cultivate a friendship, one must learn from Christ how to be a friend. Friendship requires a nurturing influence if it is to grow. This involves listening with the heart of a compassionate, sensitive being. It means refraining from judging another's motives or actions even though we may not be in full agreement with them. Christ alone will show us how to give to others without reserve, counting not the cost, deprivation or draining it entails. For His sake, we will learn to give as He did for us, by His suffering and death on the cross. Indeed, as stated so often, there is no greater love than giving one's life for a friend. Christ, who is conscious of our every breath, is always there to teach us the lessons of life - of friendship. Without Him, there is nothing to give to others - but with Him, we have everything. Perhaps this is best expressed in words of an author unknown to me in the verse:

Cycle of life
In the morning I come
an empty vessel
to be filled.
In the moments of loving communion
You pour in the sweet wine
of love to be shared.

In the demands of the day
many come seeking
to drink from the cup
some joyfully
some fearfully
some lovingly
some critically
some selfishly
until there is no more.

In the evening I return
a drained vessel
to make my peace with You
In the calm of the night
You share Your cup of salvation
with me to refresh my soul.

Once more the night passes and -

In the morning I come
an empty vessel
to be filled

The cycle of life.

copyright © 1999-2005, Spirituality for Today