From time to time, we invite guest bloggers to share their wisdom with us, and today I would like to present Dr. Katherine Yohe who earned her PhD in Historical Theology from the Catholic University of America. On July 19th 2009, she gave a lecture for the Office of Young Adult Ministry’s Relationship Speaker and Discussion Series. The following is an excerpt from that presentation.
Christian friendships are relationships of mutual affection and service, with in-depth conversations, enlivened by the Holy Spirit.
While other forms of love can be one sided, friendships are not friendships unless they are seen as such by both parties. We cannot be someone’s friend if he or she do not consider us a friend in turn. Jesus called friends those who, in turn, were friendly toward him such as Lazarus, John, and the disciples at the last supper. However, we can desire a friendship, reach out in friendship, and offer friendship before there is a return of friendship. Jesus offered friendship, it seems, to everyone. For example, who is he talking about when he says: “Greater love has no one than he lay down his life for his friends”? (John 15:13) Who was he laying down his life for? Everyone!
Affection does not referring to signs of affection per se – such as big hugs – but rather to a movement of the heart that radiates through the eyes and says “I am glad to be with you” or “I enjoy being in your presence.” Can you imagine what the gaze of Jesus must have looked like? Or think of times in your own life: What has Jesus’ love felt like during those graced moments when we have encountered Him? Christ’s love is affectionate; it isn’t mechanical. It isn’t “I’ll be nice to this person because I have to.” Rather it has a warmth, a joy, a delight in being with the other – taking time to walk, eat, and even spend eternity with that person.
Friendship goes beyond the emotional component to service. Good friends do not want to just be together, they want to do things for each other. Jesus served his friends in both little and big ways. He washed their feet, he cooked breakfast for them by the Sea of Galilee, and he died for them.
These are conversations which reveal one’s interior life. Jesus spent a lot of time talking with his friends about who he is, how he prays and understands the Scriptures, what his plans are for the world, and how they can participate in this work. At the last supper he says, “I shall not call you servants any longer, because I servant does not know his master’s business, I call you friends because I have made know to you everything I have learned from my Father.” (John 15:15)
Enlivened by the Holy Spirit
As Saint Augustine states, addressing God, “For friendship cannot be true unless You solder it together among those who cleave to one another by love ‘poured forth into our hearts by the Holy Spirit’” (Confessions 4.7, quoting Romans 5:5) Thus the love that Christian friends have for each other is inspired, moved, empowered, by the very love of God flowing through each of them. Just as the Father and Son are united in the love that is the Holy Spirit, so to do Christian friends love one another with the Spirit’s love.
What can you do today to strengthen your Christian friendships?