Let your acquaintances be many,
but one in a thousand your confidant.
Sirach 6: 6
Friendship is the theme of today’s first lectionary reading from Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 6: 5-17. Though Jesus ben Sira mostly warns about false friends, he praises real friends as a gift from God, medicine for life:
A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter;
whoever finds one finds a treasure.
A faithful friend is beyond price,
no sum can balance the worth of a friend.
A faithful friend is a life-saving remedy…
Sirach 6: 14-16
In this day of “friending” via Facebook (I have 1018) and the sharing there of everything from emotional breakdowns to what we had for lunch, it’s so easy to forget the real worth of friendship.
Give Us This Day shares these poignant words of the medieval Benedictine St. Aelred of Rievaulx on friendship:
Friendship so cushions adversity and chastens prosperity that among mortals almost nothing can be enjoyed without a friend. A friendless person is like an animal, having no one in whom to rejoice in prosperity and grieve in sadness, in whom to confide if the mind suspects some threat and with whom to communicate an unusually sublime or splendid event.
The past two weeks I have experienced what a real friend is. A friend dropped by and we shared pizza and a long conversation over our joys and frustrations. Another friend sent me an e-mail asking me about an aspect of my ministry, which gave me the opportunity to rant about something that has been bugging me for months. And the other day a friend shared with me some of her concerns. (None of these are Facebook friends!)
These encounters are a blessing and help me put my life in perspective – both the joys and the frustrations.
Yesterday, during a retreat morning on peacemaking with some Franciscan friends in Gracias, a word from a text of St. Francis touched me deeply: concordia, concord. It literally means “having a heart with” someone – being of one heart.
As I prayed over the word, I thought of the importance of helping people in conflict see where their hearts are in concord, but also of the importance of having one’s heart in concord with the Lord.
Then we can sing, “What a friend we have in Jesus.”