Praised be Jesus Christ!
People may not admit it, but their exists a strong desire in their hearts for friendship. Today, this desire for friendship is especially evident in the rapid growth of the social-networking tools on the internet. To a certain degree, these technological tools are used to satisfy one's desire for friendship. One tries to gather to himself as many online friends as he can. Old friends have been able to re-connect after many years of no contact. Even new friends can be made, or at least one can initiate contact with a new acquaintance. All of us - if we are thinking clearly - want to have friends. In this regard, the technological means of the internet are quite useful. We are thankful to have many friends, we look forward to seeing them or just hearing from them, we are concerned when a friend does not communicate with us for a long time, and we are sorrowful when we lose a friend.
Friendship, however, is not to be experienced in a vacuum. That is to say, it is not enough to simply have people in my life that I call "friends." They must be true friends to me, and I must be a true friend to them. Let us admit that among our list of friends, some may turn out to be false friends. It would be wise to be on guard against false friendships. Perhaps one might disagree with this sort of vigilance, but isn't it a terribly frustrating experience to invest much of your life in a friendship that is not real, not authentic? Someone may argue that this is not so bad because at least you can learn something from this unfortunate experience. However, beneath this is lurking the feeling - indeed, the conviction - that so much has been wasted (time, money, etc.). This becomes all the more pressing when one perceives the brevity and fragility of life.
One of the most important theologians of the Catholic Church is Saint Thomas Aquinas. He is a Doctor of the Church and is one of the wisest guides that anyone could have in the great adventure of life. This great saint declares: "Christ is our wisest and greatest friend." This saying is based simply upon who Jesus Christ is and what He does. Jesus Christ is Lord, the true Son of the Father, true God and true man. He is our Savior and is, as it were, our Friend from Heaven. His teaching and His grace bring us to live as children of God. And since that is what we really are, when we live for God we experience a fulfillment, a serenity, a happiness that is impossible to experience when we do not live for God.
If Christ is our wisest and greatest Friend, then a real friend has to be a friend to us in a manner like that of Christ. True, everyone of us may fall short in this regard, but it does remain a good barometer for making a rational judgment of who is a real friend and who is not. A real friendship is open to God. A real friend encourages you to worship God alone. A false friend does not. Instead, he/she, without saying so, seeks to keep the relationship closed off to God. A real friend strives to ensure that the Commandments and counsels of the LORD serve as the blueprint for the relationship. A false friend has a blind and instinctive obedience to the passing trends of popular culture and seeks to bring you to this close-minded way of thinking and acting.
Dear brothers and sisters, in our society there are many pitfalls in the realm of friendship. We want to avoid these pitfalls because some of them are extremely dangerous. What is our remedy? What is our shelter? Devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ. As the Bible says, "A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter: he that has found one has found a treasure" (Sirach 6:14). Christ is this faithful friend, this sturdy shelter, this treasure of great price! "Friendship is forever," people like to say. This is only true of real friendships. In Christ, friendship is eternal.
In the coming weeks, we will explore this mysterious gift of friendship with Christ. For now, suffice it to say that all the friends of Christ are also real friends with each other. This beautiful and living experience of friendship begins at baptism.
God bless you.