They stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. But when the disciples gathered around him, he got up and entered the city.
Time and again, Scripture lets us know the value of friends, as in this passage from our readings today, May 16.
In a Gospel scene, Jesus is teaching in a crowded room, leaving no space for a paralytic to enter. Undeterred, his friends carry him up to the roof, remove some tiles and lower the paralytic into the room. “Seeing their faith,” Jesus cures the man.
Not long after my bout with pneumonia, I was describing to one of the Brothers how, in my delirium, I was unable to pray or even to mention the name of God. “That’s why, ” said Brother Gabriel, “we need to pray for our sick friends.” I wonder how many friends (and family) were praying for me at that time.
Friendship grows freely between persons who love each other and are concerned for the other’s well-being. There is no sense of obligation; the Love between friends is totally gratuitous.
Friendship is similar to spousal love in that it is ready to take on the burden of the other “in sickness and in health, for richer and for poorer.” Friends cherish the same things, spurn the same things. They rarely disagree but when they do, they are careful not to belittle the other’s opinion.
Friends may be very different from each other. Still, they are enough alike in their thinking and values that they easily fall into a rhythm of togetherness marked by acceptance, spontaneity, and frequently delightful surprises. They love each other in the style that best suits the other. They never run out of conversation, as they share their thoughts from the most trivial to the deepest secrets of their soul. They are confident that secrets will be closely guarded, and never fear that they will shock the other, but will be held in respect and without judgment.
Blessed are the friends who are drawn to love each other through their shared love of the source of all Love. Here they reach the summit of human love and bask in the love of the One who called his followers “friends.”
No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. . . I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my father. (John 15:13-15)