6 Steps to Cultivate a Friendship or to Better Live the Christian Life (After All, Aren’t They The Same?)
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As almost all of you probably do, every day I receive a bunch of images through WhatsApp or via text. Memes (pretty hilarious if they make fun of the rival football team), encouraging quotes (reminding me that I can achieve everything if I really want it), pious phrases (some of which are very beautiful, by the way), questioning sayings and, of course, philosophical quotes attributed to Einstein or Pope Francis (who probably never said it).
Every once in a while, however, I get an image that I decide to keep. The last one of these was related to the Virgin Mary. It said something like “Those who love Holy Mary arrive at Heaven and hear Jesus say: ‘Come on in, my Mother has already told me all about you’.” Maybe He let him in ;).
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I think I liked it so much because it reminded me just how much the Christian life is thoroughly relational – i.e. driven by relationships between people and the process of getting to know each other. It came to my mind then that the Christian life can be divided into stages, similar to the ones we pass through when we know someone. No one has a thousand friends but we do have some (even if we can count them all on our two hands) in whom the axiom of the book of Ecclesiastes is fulfilled: “A faithful friend is a strong defense: and he that hath found such a one hath found a treasure.” So the following stages occurred to me…
1. Being interested
For whatever reason. We don’t always approach God with the purest of intentions. I have friends who encountered Christ because they attended a Catholic Youth gathering just to meet a girl. The majority of friendships started with an encounter between strangers, from which came an interest of something else. We have never been strangers to God, but maybe He has been one to us… until there was a first encounter where something in Him captivated us… An initial attraction, a curiosity about a mystery which appeared before us.
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2. Getting to know Him
Interest is not enough. It’s like a small flame or flicker, but that will blow out at any time. How many interesting people we’ve met and then forgotten… Little by little, every friendship requires getting to know the other person better. It’s the same with Jesus! Initial faith, be it big or small, requires formation to get to know it better. There are many ways to know Jesus… for starters, the best way is through the Gospels and the Sacraments. I recommend also to study a little… maybe the Catechism or through a friend who can instruct us. He who seeks, finds!
3. Making myself known
No friendship flourishes if I don’t make myself known. Sometimes, however, it’s quite difficult! We find it hard to trust, we don’t want to end up hurt, or we sometimes don’t even know ourselves well enough in order to let others know us. I have to make myself known to Jesus, not because He does not know me, but because He wants me to willingly open my heart to Him. The most beautiful space to do this is through prayer. In it, there are no barriers and, before His gaze, we can all be free. In this way we also grow in humility, which is walking in the truth.
4. Having patience…
As much as we love friends, sometimes we also have to be patient with them. And they with us. In the Christian life, patience is key. Jesus is infinitely patient with us, and He asks us to be patient as well. But not just any kind of patience: it’s what’s proposed by Saint Peter, called hypomoné. A patience full of hope, for it is filled with trust in God. It’s not only to stoically endure. It’s knowing that with God by our side, everything will be okay. I would even dare to say that we also have to be patient with Jesus, who frequently changes our plans… but it’s always for our own good!
5. Imitating the good
Good friends give us a good example. The best friend of all, Christ, gives us the best example. We also have the saints… Each of whom is unique and is always ready to be our friend! They’re there, eagerly waiting for us to ask them… In the Christian life it’s not wrong to look at other people’s virtues. Surely not to envy them, which sometimes happens, but to emulate them. That is, to want to imitate them. Anything goes if it helps us to truly strive to be better.
6. Showing affection
Or, in other words and in reality, Love. Affection in friendship is necessary; it simply has to be expressed. The important thing is what lies behind it: loving others. Sometimes we only do so on our own terms, but it’s important that the other person knows it. In the Christian life, the culmination is charity, which has to be put into action, since it’s not enough to “love” in theory… in your mind or intentions…
It’s not that hard to make a parallel between the construction of a friendship and the path we walk along in the Christian life: walking the Christian path of life is to become, with each day, a closer friend to one person: Jesus. You can probably add many other stages because relationships between people, and even more with Jesus, are incredibly rich. They are also full of risks, but risks are worth taking in order to encounter God and allow Him to encounter us, which is what He wants the most.
This post originally appeared here for Catholic-Link Spanish, and has been translated into English by Maria Isabel Giraldo.