Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
15 July 2012
My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
As we seek to follow the Lord Jesus in our daily lives, we must remember that none of us is in this alone. The adventure – and struggle – of Christian discipleship is not meant to be a solitary activity. In our earthly pilgrimage, Divine Providence places men and women in our path to help us along the way. This is the gift of Christian friendship.
Throughout the Holy Scriptures, we find various analogies that describe the nature and being of the Church. Many of these analogies, chiefly the understandings of the Church as Body and Vine, invoke organic images to describe the bonds that connect the members of the Church to the Lord and to one another.
The bonds that connect us to Christ, and to one another in Christ, are not accidental, trivial, or casual. At the moment of our Baptism, each of us was immersed into a great reality beyond ourselves. The baptismal waters are charged with a sacramental grace that irrevocably connects us to Christ and, through Christ, to one another. Baptismal water is thicker than blood: we become “related” to every Christian that has ever lived; in Christ, we truly become brothers and sisters to one another.
Now this isn’t just theological ‘mumbo jumbo’; rather, this reality forms the basis for the Church’s understanding of friendship. Life in Christ is not just about “me and Jesus.” A vibrant personal relationship with the Lord is essential, yes, but communion with God also means communion with our brothers and sisters who have also been reborn in Him. God gives us spiritual brethren and friends for our own good, and it is in the context of the holy and organic communion of the Church that we are sanctified.
The Lord breathes His Spirit into us in many ways, chiefly through the sacramental life of the Church, but also through the true and authentic friends the Lord has placed in our lives. As we grow closer in our personal friendship with the Lord, we become icons of His Presence for one another. This cuts both ways: our friendship with the Lord helps us become better friends for others, and true spiritual friendship with others helps us become closer to the Lord.
True friends help challenge and encourage us to live a virtuous life that characterizes friendship with Christ. With regard to friendship, Proverbs says: “As iron sharpens iron, so one man strengthens another.”
As we develop friendships and relationships, do we remember that a sign of a true friend is one who will draw us closer to the heart of the Lord? This weekend, let’s ask the Lord for the grace to develop strong friendships and to be good friends for others, in order that – together – we might grow in holiness.