Throughout my life as a Catholic, I have realised one of the greatest gifts God has given me is friendship. Some friendships start because of a shared interest, while others can grow because of proximity or common life circumstances. Some friendships fall apart because of distance, while some friendships are re-established because of an unexpected encounter.
There is something about friendship that is nourishing, that helps us to discover and become more than what we can otherwise be, that makes us better and gives us strength to withstand challenges that we wouldn’t be able to handle alone. As much as I say I enjoy being around people, there are only a few friends whom I can describe as authentic friendships. It is not about how long we have known each other or a means or instrument for gaining any social advantage. In a genuine friendship, we rejoice in what is good and support one another in what is difficult: we hang out with friends that are positive to our growth because ultimately, God wants us to be happy.
I’ve had times in my uni days where I held back my faith only to seek others’ approval rather than God Himself. I was afraid to step out of my comfort zone to seek out better friendships that would totally make me an outcast in my past friendship groups. In the end, I brought all my worries into prayer. God answered my prayers not only by bringing me friends that would create lasting relationships, He even brought me closer to His one and only Son, and I have discovered a personal friendship with Jesus.
“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”(John 15:15)
While friendship can be based on many things, I truly believe that Jesus is present in every single encounter I have with my friends.
Jesus’ presence in mutual understanding and love of each other.
A best friend will always be with us when we laugh and are happy, and in the midst of our difficulties. He or she is someone that we feel comfortable with, supporting and accepting; someone that we share a bond of trust and loyalty with. Of course, the most precious friendships to me are the ones that are modelled after Christ.
Proverbs 18:24 says “one who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” The most authentic friends I find are the ones who will lovingly challenge you to reach new heights and goals. They will celebrate your successes and encourage you in failures. One of my closest friendships began when we both attended a Catholic Youth event in 2018.
At first I thought this would be another “small talk friendship” that you always make when at a church event. Eventually as our conversation progressed, I learnt that we had a lot in common, and not only in our interests or sense of humour: we were also going through a similar stage of life in finding ourselves as Catholics.
What I have realised in this friendship is that it is really important to have friends who love God as much as we do, as they will be the ones who build, equip and rebuke us because we know that our friendships are centred on Christ, consistently enjoying His daily companionship and receiving His unconditional love.
Jesus is present in the challenges of friendship.
Having Jesus as our model of friendship reminds us of His unlimited grace and forgiveness. At times when we encounter challenges in our friendships by being self-centred and hurting others with thoughtless words and actions, we may find ourselves starting to become more distant from our friends. But by having Jesus’ presence in friendships means even when we fail, we can apologise, seek forgiveness, and move towards reconciliation. James 5:16 says, “therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” In doing so, we become more like Jesus and we nourish ourselves to develop more Christ-like friendships.
There was a time back in high school when I was going through a rough patch and I tended to drift away from everybody else because I felt worthless and indifferent. Trying to reach out to my usual group of friends had become one of the hardest things to do and I had a lot of uncertainty about myself. I was worried about becoming close to people again especially during the time I decided to study abroad. However, my group of childhood friends whom I also grew up in faith with journeyed with me all along. They loved me through all the confusion, they valued the friendship even when I was at my low points, listened to all my worries and prayed for me consistently.
One other remarkable thing I learnt about this is not to be afraid to be honest with yourself and with your true friends, because friendship is a gift from God and a genuine friendship will accept one’s vulnerability. John 1:7 says “if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another.” With Christ in our challenging times in friendships we genuinely pray for the ones we care about, continue to love constantly and trust that God will eventually work his miracle to mend the friendship.
Jesus is present in a community.
Jesus is present when a group gathers, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am among them.” (Matthew 18:20). In fact, He enjoys being around where everyone encourages and supports one another to grow in virtue. During Jesus’s ministry in Galilee, he called upon twelve other disciples to join him on his journey. He never intended to do his ministry alone. It is his relationship with his disciples that becomes the model for the way his followers of every age are called to be in community with one another.
We often share our prayers in small groups, able to relate ourselves intimately with a certain level of trust as we share our faith with one another. It is also in a small group that we find a sense of support for each other’s weaknesses, accountability, and the encouragement to keep on striving towards the perfection that Jesus calls us to.
Jesus is still present when you’re physically alone.
The Bible says to find a true friend indeed is a God given treasure. Of all the friends that we could make in this world, our relationship with Jesus is by far the best! It was during the Last Supper that Jesus shows his deepest desire to offer us His friendship in the Cenacle. He told his apostles “I have called you friends” (John 15:15). This reminds us that God does not love us merely as his creations but as his children and offers us friendship with Christ. We respond to this friendship by uniting our will to His, by doing what our Lord wants and by consoling the heart of Jesus. It strengthens our deep and growing relationship with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
I encourage all of you who are reading this to at least spend some time of the week to sit in silence with Jesus in Eucharistic adoration. Pope Francis once said that by immersing oneself in silence with the Eucharist is the secret to knowing the Lord in a personal and intimate way. He said, “One cannot know the Lord without the habit of adoring, of adoring in silence – to ‘waste time’ before the Lord.” Jesus’s sacred sign of love is shown through the His Real Presence in the Body and Blood of Christ. We lose our friendship with God through disobedience and sin, and in doing so we are breaking the Heart of our best friend. In order to restore it, we restore our friendship with Him by making a good confession. Learn to say “No” to committing the sins again and say “Yes” to continue to develop a deep and growing friendship with Jesus.