The Love of Friendship

June 14, 2024
Friday of the Tenth Week of Ordinary Time
Readings for Today

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If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into Gehenna. Matthew 5:29–30

This imagery of tearing out your eye and cutting off your hand is clearly meant to get our attention. Though we can be certain that Jesus is not actually suggesting we mutilate our bodies, we should not hesitate to prayerfully ponder this imagery so as to understand the truths Jesus is speaking.

Saint Augustine, in reflecting upon this passage, states: “By the eye we must understand our most cherished friend…” Augustine further points out that Jesus specifically mentions the “right eye” as a way of denoting those friendships that have a “higher degree of affection” (Serm. in Mont. i. 13.). Thus, although friendship—especially very close friendship—is a gift, sometimes those close to us can become a source of sin or an occasion of sin. In that case, they are not truly friends, and it might be better to limit or even end that relationship rather than to allow it to lead us into sin.

Think about the people in your own life. Though we must love all people with the love of God, friendship is more than love. Friendship establishes a special bond with another and opens you up to their presence and influence in your life. When you establish a friendship, you allow another a certain influence in your life. When that influence is good, then the friendship produces much good fruit. But when that influence is evil, then that friendship becomes a danger to the good of your soul. In that case, it may need to be torn out or cut off so that you are not drawn into serious sin or even the occasion of sin.

When a friend in your life becomes an occasion of sin to you, your love for them must remain, but it must also change. Love, in this case, may take on the form of a loving rebuke, a withdrawal of your own heart, or a limiting of your interactions. But this is love. By analogy, when a person sins against God, their relationship with God also changes. God withdraws His friendship. He is less present to the person, and their internal communion diminishes or even ends when the sin is serious. This is not a lack of love on God’s part; it is simply the effect of sin. So also in our relations with another, when the grace of God is not mutually given and received between two people, then friendship in the truest sense is not possible. True friendship is always centered in God’s grace and dependent upon it. Therefore, when God is excluded from a relationship, that relationship must change from a true friendship to a relationship that imitates God’s love for a sinner. Mercy, compassion and forgiveness must continually be offered, but interior communion and unity will end. But this is love.

Reflect, today, upon those in your life whom God has given you to love. First, reflect upon those relationships that do have God at the center. These relationships will become true friendships and will produce an abundance of good fruit in your life. Rejoice in these friendships and give thanks to God for them. Second, reflect upon any relationship that does not bear good fruit. As you do, prayerfully consider how you approach that relationship. Do you attempt to maintain a “friendship” even though God is not able to be the center of that relationship? If so, ponder how God is calling you to change that relationship so that it more fully reflects the love God has for you and for that other person in your life.

My Lord and true Friend, I thank You for loving me with a perfect love. I pray that I will always be open to that love so that my unity with You will ever deepen. I also pray that I will be an instrument of Your love to others. Please give me the grace to love everyone in my life in the way that You love them, nothing less and nothing more. Jesus, I trust in You.

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Featured images above: Christ the Saviour Blessing, via flickr