A few years ago one of my students wrote in a paper that his mother taught him that every day when he got home from school his best friend would be waiting for him. As a result he looked forward to getting home so that he could spend some time with this best friend. To think of leaving school after a long and often grueling day to spend time with a friend (without even mentioning the homework that had to be done), is the absolute best thing any young person could imagine. While I thought that his mother was referring to herself, in fact, she was not: "the best friend" to whom she was referring was God. My student would go home after school, go to his room, and spend some time in prayer. He did this not because he had to, but because His best friend was waiting for him to share his day. You can imagine that reading this deeply affected me.
There is nothing like having a good friend waiting for us. During those times in our lives when we are feeling alone or like nothing is going right, just knowing there is someone there who can make us laugh, or who can listen well, can make all the difference. We all know at least one person in our life that we could turn to when we are feeling this way. Even on a "garden variety" day, to know we can leave the grind of work and go hang out with a friend is enough to make any work lighter. It is a blessing to have such a friend with whom we can mutually share our deepest thoughts, our biggest sorrows, our funniest stories, and the ordinary "stuff" of life.
Today people frequently refer to what seems to be that one special friend with the acronym BFF. That’s Best Friend Forever, for the uninitiated. We may see or hear that term bandied about somewhat loosely. Today “so and so” is my BFF and tomorrow someone different is my new BFF. It seems that friendship is a fickle thing. Even the term friend has taken on a new meaning. On social networking sites “friend” refers to someone with whom I have a connection on said site. It does not necessarily mean someone with whom I have built a close relationship or whom I have known for a great many years. The meaning seems to be more like what I grew up understanding an acquaintance to be, which is simply someone I know or have met somewhere along the line. Yet here are all these people with hundreds or even thousands of “friends.” I guess it could be worse: at least they are not enemies!
Can all these people really be our intimates? Can they all be so interested in our welfare that they would lay down their daily lives at a moment’s notice to be with us if we needed them, or we for them? In all likelihood the odds are not too high for many of them. A few of them, oh yes…without a doubt. And with these few our lives are truly blessed! Don’t get me wrong: I have nothing against being in touch with acquaintances along with true friends. In fact they are all blessings to me and I am grateful for each of them. But I do not have any allusions that they are all intimates with me. I simply want to be clear that being a true friend, especially a best friend, means the willingness to go a lot further than you would go for anyone else to support them. They are a constant in our lives. It means we trust them with our deepest confidences and know the trust is mutual. We love them like a brother or sister. We simply cannot have that level of friendship with everyone. We can have lots of friends, but only one or two who we would call best friends.
The beautiful reality is that while we do have true and dear friends, we also have Jesus, our friend of friends. He is our true BFF who is not at all fickle or fair-weathered. He truly sticks with us through thick and thin, from the moment of our conception until we draw our last breath, and then some….as we enter fully into His presence in Heaven forever. Jesus is our best friend insofar as there is no one who could possibly love us more than He does. He is, after all, God.
We know that Jesus is true God and true Man. In all the time He was on this earth He shared who He was with His friends. It was not all preaching to the crowds or arguing with Pharisees. He shared in the lives of many, just as we do, on a daily basis. That the Son of God came from Heaven in order to be one of us is so incredible in its scope and reality that it is beyond our capability to understand. Maybe that is part of my point: that the Son of God would come down and befriend us in an entirely new way, an unimaginable way, as to become one of us, is an amazing testimony to God's desire for intimacy with us. He wants to be our friend. He came to begin His kingdom here and He has asked (us) His disciples, and yes, friends, to help Him with the work of bringing it to fulfillment.
While Jesus performed many acts of power (miracles) in Mark's Gospel the author records that just about every time He did something spectacular or miraculous, He asked the observers or recipients to keep it secret. This request is referred to as the Messianic Secret. It was impossible for people to do as He asked. So why would Jesus ask such a thing?
It seems to me that Jesus did that because He wanted people to follow Him not just for what He could give them, but for His message. That is, He wanted them to love Him for who He was, not for what they could get from Him. It is not that He did not want to give us things. He did give all: He gave His life to save us and He gave His Holy Spirit to guide us forever. There is nothing greater anyone could ever give. But He wanted our friendship, not to be glorified on earth during His lifetime. In all the accounts of His life, He spent numerous days with people in their homes and on the streets, but only revealed His divinity once (when He was transfigured). Therefore it seems to me that it was very important to Him that people know that ultimately what God wants most is our love and friendship.
There is no greater friend we can have than Jesus. While we have many dear and faithful friends throughout life, there is none more faithful than Jesus, Our Lord. He never abandons us when we are alone, in trouble, sick, or dying. He laughs at our jokes and He weeps when we weep. He hears our requests. He knows our deepest longings. But there is so much more! He is our friend forever. This is a relationship that begins when we are baptized and it goes on forever. No matter what we do, or fail to do, He does not change his status where we are concerned. He will never un-friend us or “unlike” us. From the moment God thought of us and desired to bring us into the world, He loved us. He loved us into existence, so there is no way that He would ever change His mind. This friendship lasts for all eternity. He is the Alpha and Omega and never changes, therefore His love for us will never diminish or change. We can rely on Him and know He will never fail us.
Let us learn how to be a friend following the example of Jesus. May we be dedicated to serve those around us treating them as friends would want to be treated! May we be willing to open our hearts to people who may be in need of a friend! May we be true in our love and devotion to those the Lord has put in our lives! May we have the desire to let Jesus be our best friend to whom we run each day! Let us meet in the heart of the One who is our true best Friend forever! Peace!
The top photo is an icon in a Byzantine rite church that I visited many years ago in Pennsylvania.
The icon is St. Joseph and the Holy Child by Rev. William Hart McNichols. I chose this because no doubt Jesus learned much about how to be a man from his earthly father. You can find this icon at http://www.standreirublevicons.co/gallery.php?action=viewPicture&id=387
Heart Speaks to Heart