I have always prayed that each of our children would have at least one good friend. “Please Lord, bring him one friend who will help him to belong, to keep his values and to follow you.” Each person desires, at a deeply spiritual and psychological level, to have at least one other person declare, “I call you friend.”
In this Sunday’s readings, Jesus speaks final words to his apostles, “I have called you friends.” He calls them friends — not workers, employees, personnel, but friends! That’s a game-changer: we are called to the intimacy and joy of friendship with God and others, a friendship willing to “lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
From early Christianity, the saints embraced friendship as a path to holiness: St. Paul and St. Luke, St. Ambrose and St. Augustine, St. John of the Cross and St. -Teresa of Avila, JRR Tolkien and C.S. Lewis — to name a few. Cardinal John Henry Newman wrote of Christian friendship as together seeking the truth — God.
Through friendship, Christian men and women encourage one another to follow Jesus — even to martyrdom. My favorite saintly friends are St. Perpetua and St. Felicity, who were young mothers and friends. Though Perpetua held a toddler and Felicity a nursing infant, they had the strength to hand their children over to the care of the Christian community before being fed to wild beasts.
My friend Becky and I look to Perpetua and Felicity as models for our friendship, believing we could do anything for God — together. True friends desire what is best for the other, which is a friendship with Jesus. Christian friends encourage one another on the spiritual journey to do the right thing, the noble thing, the healthy thing, the difficult thing and the holy thing.
Sometimes, I can’t believe Becky, who is of such goodness and holiness, would choose to call me, friend. I know Becky has my back. She prays for me and mine, encourages me in prayer and virtues, -listens to me, and forgives me regularly. We laugh until we cry and cry until we laugh. Our friendship is pure gift from God for our sanctification and his glory. Through this generous gift of friendship, I hear Jesus state, “I call you friend.”
As parents/grandparents, we name grace — God’s guiding presence — by reminding our children Jesus is with them always. They can talk to him — day, night, at school or on the playground. Jesus is their best friend, who wills and works for their good. We also encourage our children to be a friend, especially to a child who is new or lonely.
Does Jesus, the king of kings and Lord of lords, really call me friend? Does he have my back when I’m rejected, fearful or discouraged? Does he will the best for me? Does Jesus laugh and cry with me? Yes. He calls me, friend! He calls each of us, friend!
Several of our grandchildren will be entering a new school in August. There is anxiety as they question their acceptance. As a grandmother, my deepest prayer is that each will find at least one true friend, who leads them closer to God. But no matter what, I’m confident they have a best friend in Jesus — now and forever. Now, that’s good news!
How will you speak of God’s friendship with your child?
How have you experienced Christian friendship?
Naming Grace in the Domestic Church reflects on the Sunday readings through the lens of a parent/grandparent, aiding parents in their vital task as “first preachers” of the good news in the domestic church—the church of the home.