Faith And Friendship
"Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus." -St. John 11:1
"One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was lying close to the breast of Jesus;..." -St. John 13:23
"And Jesus looking upon him loved him..." -St. Mark 10:21We all have a best friend. We may have known our best friends all of our lives or we may have met them more recently. Whatever other relationships to us they may have, they are, above and beyond everything else, our best friends. We know them. We trust them. We love them.
We have all been to dinner with our best friends. Maybe it hasn't been for awhile. Maybe it was just last night. Whenever it was, spending that time with our best friends is always like none other. So, let us each think about being out to dinner with our best friends. For the sake of this illustration, our best friends' name is John.
We are at the restaurant, sitting at a table, and talking with John. Maybe it is only about ten or fifteen minutes into the meal, so you have your drinks and are sharing an appetizer. Even as you talk in the present about the future, the past is always there: how you've helped out each other, triumphs celebrated, defeats soothed, joys shared, sorrows shared more deeply. John has always been there and you know he always will be.
In the middle of your conversation, however, a gentleman walks up to your table and states to you, "John is not there. There is no John." Both of you would be startled, maybe alarmed. How preposterous! You know John is sitting there and you know that the person across the table from you is John. He has been eating, drinking, and breathing right there in front of you. You hugged him, when you first greeted each other. He is as real as real can get. It could not be more obvious that the person claiming that John is not there is a lunatic. You and John would have a good laugh at this gentleman's expense.
Shortly after the entrée arrives, another gentleman comes up to you and says, "John is not your best friend. He doesn't really care about you and he certainly doesn't have your best interests at heart. Join us over here and meet your real best friend, Dennis. Oh! and we'll pay for your meal. I'm sure John wasn't going to do that for you." Again, you and your best friend would laugh hysterically at this man's bold lies. Incensed, you would tell him to leave your table before you have him ejected from the restaurant.
But the gentleman persists. "Do you know that John cheated on an examination in school? Do you know that he once worked a summer job only for cash and never reported the income to the IRS? Your best friend is an alcoholic and was once arrested for fighting at a bar. How can you associate with anyone like this? Why would you call him a friend?
"On the other hand, Dennis at our table is on the up and up. He has never so much as stepped on an ant. He knows how to live a good life and he will never let you down. Get away from this whoremongering loser and be best friends with a real man."
At this point, you would have either slugged the guy or had him thrown out of the restaurant by the manager or the police. There is no way you would have tolerated that man's defamation of your best friend.
We Catholics tolerate such talk about Jesus and His Church. We join in at times. Some of us even believe what they say.