07 March 2011

Homily - 25 February 2011

Friday of the Seventh Week of the Year

Dear brothers and sisters,

In the first reading today we hear some of the wisdom gained through the experience of the long life lived by Sirach, as recorded by his grandson, Joseph. He counsels us today about friendship, reminding us that “his friend will be like himself” (Sirach 6:17).

We know friendship to be “one of the noblest and loftiest human sentiments which divine Grace purifies and transfigures” (Pope Benedict XVI, Audience Address, 15 September 2010).

Each of us has a variety of friends and the depth of our friendship is not the same with all of our friends. We know Sirach to be right when he speaks of faith-weather friends and of true friends.

Cicero once said, “Life is nothing without friendship,” and Saint Thomas Aquinas said, “Friendship is the source of the greatest pleasures, and without friends even the most agreeable pursuits become tedious.” What, then, is the purpose of friendship?

Friendship – as a gift from the Lord – has as its true good and purpose one task: growth in virtue. It is no secret that the closest of friends become more and more like each other, as Sirach reminds us. For this reason, we must be cautious when forming friendships.

It has been said that you can judge the quality of man by the friends he keeps, and one of the ancient philosophers said, “If you want to be a thief, hang around thieves; if you want to be good, hang around good people.”

Do your friends drag you down into a life of sin, or do they lift you up to the heights of perfection? Do you drag your friends down into a life of sin, or do you lift them up to the heights of perfection? Our aim as friends must be to help our friends stay in friendship with the one friend common to us all: Jesus Christ.

Jesus says to us, “You are my friends if you do what I command you” (John 15:14). His command is simple: it is the love of God and the love of neighbor. What is more, he laid down his life for us on the altar of the Cross; he gave his all for us, his friends, and he urges us to do the same.

Let us return for a moment to the wisdom of Sirach. “A faithful friend,” he says, “is a sturdy shelter; he who finds one finds a treasure. A faithful friend is beyond price, no sum can balance his worth” (Sirach 6:14-15).

There is none more faithful than Jesus Christ, and from his Cross he invites us to find shelter within his sacred heart. By contemplating his wounds willingly received for love of us, we find the doorway to his heart and live in him, the greatest of friends.

His friendship truly is a treasure, for he is that “treasure hidden in a field” (Matthew 13:44). His friendship is also beyond price because he is also that “pearl of great price” (Matthew 13:46).

My dear young friends, I urge you to enter in a deep friendship with the Lord by spending time with him each day in prayer; by pondering his word in the Bible; and be receiving the sacraments worthily, with devotion and humble love.

Friendship with Jesus is like any other friendship; if we do not spend time with him we cannot be his friend.

There are few certainties in life, but of this we can be most sure:
God wants your friendship. And once you enter into friendship with God,
everything in your life begins to change. As you come to know him better, you
find you want to reflect something of his infinite goodness in your own life.
You are attracted to the practice of virtue. You begin to see greed and
selfishness and all other sins for what they really are, destructive and
dangerous tendencies that cause deep suffering and do great damage, and you want
to avoid falling into that trap yourselves. You begin to feel compassion for
people in difficulties and you are eager to do something to help them. You want
to come to the aid of the poor and the hungry, you want to comfort the
sorrowful, you want to be kind and generous. And once these things begin to
matter to you, you are well on the way to becoming saints (Pope Benedict XVI,
Address, 17 September 2010).

Becoming saints is, of course, the task before each of us, for we are called to be more like Jesus Christ, the only true and faithful shelter we have.

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