Loneliness in Friendship
St. Jerome once said “A friend is long sought, hardly found, and with difficulty kept.” I think we can all relate with this in some way.
How often do we feel lonely in our friendships; like our friendships are all work from our own end, and little to no effort from the other party? Do we find ourselves being the ones to make the phone calls, initiate emails or texts, schedule the in-person hangouts, ask the questions in those hangouts, and/or be the primary one to share our heart? I think we may all feel like this at some time or another.
We are experiencing a serious crisis right now: we are living in a time where people are extremely disconnected from one another, and we as Christians also fall prey to this temptation as well. Our Blessed Lord said to His disciples “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Christ Himself has set the standard, but as people who seek to imitate Him, how much are we really doing this? When a friend calls us and needs to talk, are we really placing them and their needs above ours? Are we willing to make the necessary changes to our schedules to make a place for those whom God has given us as friends? What about when a friend needs our help with something? Are we going out of our way to give them a hand, to lay down our life and our will in order to love them more than ourselves? How often do we put things we love before the people we love?
We are a people who fail on a daily basis to love those around us, yet in dying for us, Christ showed us the most perfect way to love one another. He was there for his friends (and enemies), he gave them words of encouragement, and he also admonished them. He spent a significant amount of time with them. The Blessed Mother went and spent three months with her cousin Elizabeth when she learned that she was also having a child. This would have been a big journey for her. She would have likely walked anywhere between 70-130 miles, which would have been quite a few days journey, while pregnant. Yet, Mary made the sacrifice because she loved Elizabeth.
Friendship is meant for us to lead one another to the Lord. The book of Proverbs gives some great advice surrounding friendship when it says, “an open rebuke is better than hidden love! Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy” (Proverbs 27:5-6). We are meant to be sharpened by one another, by spouses, friends, parents, even by our own children, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). Yes, it can be difficult, but this type of thing will only serve to strengthen our friendships with one another and subsequently with God. When we are not sharpened, we become dull and ineffective.
It says in Proverbs that “there are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). Relationships are so easily broken and damaged, whether it be by a cruel word, betrayal of trust, broken promises, or even lack of noticeable effort, no matter how big or small these actions may be.
St. Peter, in his friendship with Christ, denied Him three times. Yet he later wholeheartedly affirmed his love for the Lord, remembering afterward that he had previously denied Him. St. Peter went on to lead the Church tremendously as the first Pope, growing ever closer to the Lord. We just celebrated the Feast of Pentecost, where the Apostles with Mary, were together, united as friends in the Lord. They all received the gift of the Holy Spirit, which served to bring them closer together and enabled them to witness to the entire world. May we, like St. Peter, reaffirm our love for our friends in word and in deed, and may we pray that the Holy Spirit would help to guide, deepen, and strengthen our friendships. Subsequently, let us love more deeply in word and deed those we do not like or know. G.K. Chesterton said “The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because generally they are the same people.” As our Blessed Lord said in John’s Gospel, “by this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another.”