The Priceless Treasure of Christian Friendship, 7th Friday (I), February 24, 2017

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Sacred Heart Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Friday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time, Year I
Votive Mass of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
February 24, 2017
Sir 6:5-17, Ps 119, Mk 10:1-12

 

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 

 

The following points were attempted in today’s homily: 

  • Today’s readings are quite powerful. I’d like to focus mainly on today’s first reading because we hear Christ’s words on the meaning of marriage at least four times each year, whereas we hear the first reading of Friday of the Seventh Week of Ordinary Time rarely, only on odd years when either Christmas falls on a Sunday (and the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time is early) or Ash Wednesday is really late, or both. By my own count, in the 47 years since the Church gave us the new lectionary, we have heard today’s first reading just 8 times including today (1973, 1979, 1981, 1987, 1995, 2003, and 2011) and over the course of the rest of our lives — or at least until 2060 — we’ll only hear it six other times (2019, 2025, 2033, 2049, 2055 and 2057). So it’s worth prioritizing simply because of its infrequency. But it’s also worth prioritizing simply because of its content!
  • We cannot over stress the importance of friendship in human and Christian life, especially in an age in which people treat friendship at the level of Facebook acquaintances. Today Sirach today contrasts true friendship from the many pretenders and tries to help us beware of the faux forms and treasure the true one. He makes the following points, among other things:
    • We gain friends by “kind mouths” and “gracious lips,” by being good, rather than being the type of caustic, sarcastic critics that can’t attract anyone.
    • We need to test friends, lest they be among those who pretend to be friends just when it suits them, who will abandon us when we need them, who will turn on us and betray us publicly, who will be with us for parties but not for funerals or sorrows, who will take advantage of our relationships with others.
    • He tells us that true friends are sturdy shelters, priceless treasures, and life-saving remedies.
    • He also adds that when friends mutually “fear God,” they can have a genuine friendship indeed. We see this type of friendship, for example, in SS. Gregory and Basil whom we celebrate very January 2.
  • Christ calls us to have friendship with him and then to love others as he has loved us. That means we need to seek to be friends with others as he is with us. During the Last Supper, he said, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.” He points to some truths about Christian friendship from his friendship with us:
    • Friends spend time together. Love is spelled TIME.
    • Friends are intimate with each other, revealing things and finding that the other is trustworthy with secrets.
    • Friends are willing to sacrifice for each other, even to die.
    • Friends have a common good together, as Jesus and we had the revelation of the Father.
    • Friends have mutual love.
  • One of the most important types of friendship is Christian marriage, but the eros of marriage must be based on philia and agape and must be both loyal and merciful. That’s why Jesus’ words about adultery in today’s Gospel are so poignant, because that’s a true betrayal of the type of friendship that should exist in a marriage, when one sacrifice’s a loved one for gratification. Marital friendships, and all Christian friendships, must feature true loyalty.
  • It’s so important to talk about Christian friendship, especially among religious and consecrated people, because in many communities, there’s a suspicion of friendship. Perhaps this was because of a defect in chastity formation in yesteryear, in which many communities feared the development of “particular friendships” that could either turn homosexual or exclusive, cliquish and destructive of community life. But these abuses shouldn’t take away the real “treasure” of authentic friendship, which sustains chastity, because when there’s no real love of friendship in a celibate consecrated person’s life, one can easily succumb to the temptation to think that what’s missing is eros. But for the development of friendship to take place, there needs to be formation in friendship and permission and space for friendships to develop. This will help people grow in fidelity all of their days. And what goes for priests and consecrated persons go for all Catholics. The importance of friendship cannot be overestimated.
  • Every Mass Jesus seeks to renew his friendship with us, revealing to us what he heard from the Father, making us free by that truth rather than slaves, strengthening us from the inside to keep his commandments, and then sending us out to love others with the same agape, the same philia, with which he loved us. Our friendship with him is the sturdiest shelter, the most priceless treasure, and the supreme life-saving remedy, transforming us in such a way that we can be those shelters, treasures and remedies for others, by drawing them through the discipleship and apostolate of friendship more and more deeply with us into friendship with Christ!

 

The readings for today’s Mass were:

Reading 1 SIR 6:5-17

A kind mouth multiplies friends and appeases enemies,
and gracious lips prompt friendly greetings.
Let your acquaintances be many,
but one in a thousand your confidant.
When you gain a friend, first test him,
and be not too ready to trust him.
For one sort is a friend when it suits him,
but he will not be with you in time of distress.
Another is a friend who becomes an enemy,
and tells of the quarrel to your shame.
Another is a friend, a boon companion,
who will not be with you when sorrow comes.
When things go well, he is your other self,
and lords it over your servants;
But if you are brought low, he turns against you
and avoids meeting you.
Keep away from your enemies;
be on your guard with your friends.
A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter;
he who finds one finds a treasure.
A faithful friend is beyond price,
no sum can balance his worth.
A faithful friend is a life-saving remedy,
such as he who fears God finds;
For he who fears God behaves accordingly,
and his friend will be like himself.

Responsorial Psalm PS 119:12, 16, 18, 27, 34, 35

R. (35a) Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.
Blessed are you, O LORD;
teach me your statutes.
R. Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.
In your statutes I will delight;
I will not forget your words.
R. Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.
Open my eyes, that I may consider
the wonders of your law.
R. Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.
Make me understand the way of your precepts,
and I will meditate on your wondrous deeds.
R. Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.
Give me discernment, that I may observe your law
and keep it with all my heart.
R. Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.
Lead me in the path of your commands,
for in it I delight.
R. Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.

Alleluia JN 17:17B, 17A

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Your word, O Lord, is truth;
consecrate us in the truth.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MK 10:1-12

Jesus came into the district of Judea and across the Jordan.
Again crowds gathered around him and, as was his custom,
he again taught them.
The Pharisees approached him and asked,
“Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?”
They were testing him.
He said to them in reply, “What did Moses command you?”
They replied,
“Moses permitted a husband to write a bill of divorce
and dismiss her.”
But Jesus told them,
“Because of the hardness of your hearts
he wrote you this commandment.
But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female.
For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother
and be joined to his wife,
and the two shall become one flesh.
So they are no longer two but one flesh.
Therefore what God has joined together,
no human being must separate.”
In the house the disciples again questioned Jesus about this.
He said to them,
“Whoever divorces his wife and marries another
commits adultery against her;
and if she divorces her husband and marries another,
she commits adultery.”