I’ve been thinking about friends a lot lately. Not TV sitcom friends or Facebook friends, but real friends. I have been blessed with friends throughout my life. Different kinds of friends at different times in my life. Some have walked with me for a short time; others, have been at my side for years.
At daily Mass this week, we have been reading from the Book of Sirach, also known as Ecclesiasticus or The Wisdom of Ben Sira. It was written in Hebrew in the early years of the 2nd century B.C. by the grandson of Sira, and later translated into Greek. This book is not found in the Jewish Bible nor in Protestant Bibles. However, the Catholic Church recognizes it as inspired and canonical, that is, it is officially accepted as genuine.
Yesterday, the reading was about friendship – good friends and bad. (Sirach 6:5-17) Sirach advises:
A thousand people may get to know you, but bare your soul to only a few. If you have a friend in the making, don’t rush to bare your innermost thoughts. A chance friend may not be a friend for all seasons, especially when it comes to the final inspection. (v. 6-7) (contemporary translation found in The Message, 2013)
After giving examples of “bad friends,” Sirach describes a faithful friend:
There’s the faithful friend, a strong protection against the storm. Find a friend like that, and you’ve found a treasure. There’s no substitute for a faithful friend; they have a goodness money can’t buy. The faithful friend is a life-extender, an elixir of life. Those who fear God know such a friend when they meet one. (v. 13-16.)
Reflecting on the reading, I asked myself what kind of friend I am to others? Do I make an effort to find friends or make friends or keep friends? Friendship takes effort. You have to put in the time: meeting for lunch, driving a distance to meet friends, sending birthday wishes and thinking-of-you cards, or just sitting together without saying a word. We put in the effort because we love being with our friend, and we believe that our friend loves being with us.
Mary Stommes, editor of Give Us This Day, believes that “we don’t really ‘find’ friends, or even ‘make’ friends. Friendship unfolds and grows in much the same way as our faith in God does, in much the same way as our friendship with God does.” And this of course, raises another important question for me: Do I believe that God loves being with me?