So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thess. 2:15). Guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards faith (1 Tim. 6:21-22).

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

You've Got A Friend In Me | Friends help us become saints.

Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
—St. John 15:13

A good friend is a great blessing to be cherished, a gift from the Lord to Whom one should continually give thanks. For, in giving thanks to the Author of Life and the source of all blessing, we acknowledge our creatureliness and dispose ourselves to His grace. We are shaped by grace to respond to grace. So then, pray for the grace to better respond to God's generous offer of salvation and in thanksgiving for the blessing of a good friend.

No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.—St. John 15:15

We confide in a true friend; a true friend speaks to us the truth in love. A friend reminds us of our dignity and inspires us to live with integrity. A friend knows when not to speak. His presence alone is reminder enough that we should do as we ought. A friend's silence speaks volumes.

Friendship and trust; hand in glove. The number of people I trust with my successes and failures, my most creative and most disheartening experiences I can count on one hand with fingers to spare. Real friends are truly hard to come by.

Jesus will never betray one's trust. His friendship is life giving. Jesus loves us as we are, but He loves us too much to leave us as we are. That is, stuck in our sins. His friendship is demanding. He has given His very life for all of us. He calls us to love as He loves. 

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Here are three snapshots of close friends, in summary of course, for it is practically impossible to give a complete portrait of these individuals who are or have been so influential in my life.

The names have been changed.

Friend #1—Ambrose

Ambrose is a lawyer, and an excellent one at that. He is highly intelligent and much sought after for his skill. He and his wife have a lovely family.

The children are a beautiful combination of their parents. While definitely individuals, each child possesses in common their mother's and father's warmth, passion, integrity, intelligence and empathy. Ambrose is a solid Catholic, which means he models the Faith in word and deed. He is no 'cafeteria Catholic'. He is a good father, the kind of man a child can look up to and learn how to be a good, kind and loving person.

Though Ambrose is very bright, he does not lord his intellectual power over others. He is deferential in ways that immediately let others know he is a thoughtful man, a wise man whose word is true in every respect. The depth of Ambrose's and his wife's hospitality has been humbling and life changing for me.

Friend #2—Alphonse

Alphonse is a man you can not imagine ever telling you a lie. He is generous to the point that his health suffers for lack of rest from service. His middle name might as well be 'spent', for he spends most of his days offering his time and skill to others until he is exhausted. Only the most bitter or entitled people have been able to avoid complimenting him for the thoroughness he brings to every job. Even though some folk seem entrenched in their bad attitudes, Alphonse has probably influenced countless people for the better by his indefatigable sense of fairness and ability to see the best in people.

Alphonse's surname might as well be 'service', for he habitually puts other people's interests first. Alphonse is not Catholic, but he is a very Catholic-minded christian. In many ways, he is a much better Catholic that I am. Though he has had his fair share of encounters with disagreeable types who have taken advantage of his generosity, he has remained unfailingly generous and kind. He is quick to pray for people and eager to forgive.

Alphonse is single, never been married, living a chaste christian life in a society that, like nearly all others, does not value chastity. Alphonse and I share a sense of camaraderie that has helped us both weather those moments when being single can be a cross, whether it involves moments of loneliness or confusion or temptations of one kind or another. A good friend such as Alphonse helps one keep a perspective on life. That is, the fundamental importance of placing one's complete trust in Jesus the Lord.

Friend #3—Augustine

Augustine passed away suddenly a few years ago. Augustine's death was devastating to many people, especially his loving wife, who knew him as a fun-loving, benevolent and irrepressibly hopeful soul who, at a moment's notice, would drop anything he was doing to assist anyone in need.

Augustine and I shared a love of helping others enjoy making music. When Augustine died, it was like I had lost my part in our shared script of life. A role I had been playing suddenly evaporated with his departure. The stage became quiet, and an emptiness set in.

That big kid who sat on the other side of the teeter-totter had left the playground, and there I was left sitting on the seesaw resting in the sand, staring up at the other end suspended in the air. Augustine was a big kid, both in terms of his attitude and size. A gentle soul, Augustine rarely expressed anger, but when he did you knew it had to be with good reason. Eminently fair-minded, Augustine's sense of justice and fair play was something I admired and continue to demand or refine in myself. His example has made it far easier to avoid holding a grudge.

Although Augustine never referred to himself as a christian of any flavour, he was raised an Anglican. I would call him a man of goodwill. My hope is that God granted him a swift and merciful judgment, and that at his death he met God Who, looking on Augustine's heart, saw a soul in need of His salvation. Encountering the living God at his personal judgment, it is my hope that Augustine recognized the One Who alone can grant all men eternal peace, and that he ran toward and not away from our Heavenly Father's loving embrace. God willing, I hope he and I meet again in the life of the world to come.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace.

An entirely incomplete and inadequate summary.

These three friends bring out the best in me. I consider them brothers. That is another word that shouldn't be used too lightly: brother. In the case of Augustine, the joys and sorrows he and I shared are a constant guide, a melody that has fixed itself in my memory.

All three of these brothers have been present and supportive during those moments when life has exerted a particular pressure: the death of my parents; a relationship gone south; job and health concerns; etc.

These exceptional friends would be the first to acknowledge their imperfections. It's not my task here to expose any of their failings, except to note that perhaps they are a little too hard on themselves at times. Rather, this is an opportunity to acknowledge that they have helped me overcome my own limitations. I look to all three friends as role models. I hope they know that it is because of their example and friendship that I am a better person. In my best moments, it's accurate to say those moments have been shaped considerably by their influence.

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If Jesus is Lord of your life, there is little that will overturn your boat. Even if the boat does flip, Jesus is with you in the midst of it all. Sometimes, and if you are as thick as I am, it takes more than a few trials by fire to be purified of any doubt and to turn to the One Who is ready to rescue us from our bad decisions.

Jesus is real. A recent situation has confirmed, yet again, that God is ever present and looking after me. I am thankful to God that I have friends like Alphonse and Ambrose to remind me to place my trust in Jesus.

Thanks be to God for the gift of good friends. If you have even one good friend in this life, then consider yourself blest and give thanks to God for such a blessing. If you feel you are short on good friends, go make some. If you want a good friend, start by being one yourself.

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"A multitude of wise men is the salvation of the world(.)—Wisdom 6:24. Readers are welcome to make rational and responsible comments. Any comment that 1) offends human dignity and/or 2) which constitutes an irrational attack on the Catholic Faith will not go unchallenged. If deemed completely stupid, such a comment will most assuredly not see the light of day. Them's the rules. Don't like 'em? Move on.