I. Homily – 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – Friendship
II. When a friend tells you he will suffer is it not the job of the friend to do all he can to prevent this suffering?
A. What did Jesus expect Saint Peter to say to Him, “Yes, Lord, isn’t it great that you will be arrested and crucified. How can we help?”
B. And, yet, when Jesus calls Peter “Satan” and tells him he is an obstacle to him, Jesus seems to be reversing all that He had granted to Peter when Jesus called him the “rock” on which He would build His Church.
1. The word St. Matthew uses here for “obstacle” is more literally translated “a stumbling block,” “a stone on a path that causes you to fall.”
2. One moment Peter is the rock on which the Church will be built and the next a stumbling stone.
3. This exchange between Peter and Jesus is nestled right between two predictions of the passion.
a) Here Peter is not simply taking issue with what Jesus has said about his need to suffer and die, Peter is adamantly…even physically…barring Jesus from continuing on to Jerusalem and letting Jesus know His suffering will not happen as long as he is around.
b) Then…as soon as Jesus extricates himself from Peter’s grasp, he not only reiterates that Jesus Himself will suffer and die but anyone who loves Him must also “take up His cross and follow Him.”
c) So, is Jesus being fickle? Doesn’t he want Peter to be a friend to Him
III. The disagreement between these two arises from Peter misunderstanding what it means to be a friend.
A. St. Peter saw friendship as a remedy for the loneliness he feels in his heart…camaraderie…spending time together…supporting each other in their mutual endeavors…
1. After all…they had spent a lot of time together…they had traveled together, prayed together, eaten together…Peter had followed him…Jesus had shown Himself to Peter at the Transfiguration…Jesus took Peter with Him wherever He went…
2. It seems only natural that Peter would not want to lose His friend with whom he had done so much…
B. But, our Lord, knows friendship to be something far beyond camaraderie, loyalty and enjoying one’s company. It may be this but our Lord knows true friendship goes far beyond it.
1. Aristotle spoke of three different kinds of friendship: Friendship of pleasure, Friendship of Utility and Friendship of Virtue.
a) Friendship of Pleasure is the type of friendship in which you have a good time and enjoy one another’s company, the other types of friendship do not necessarily exclude this type, but enjoyment is not their ultimate goal.
b) Friendship of Utility is the type of friendship that business partners have…these friends help their friends be better at what they do…accomplish a project and the like…it can be quite noble and good, but there is something more…
c) Friendship of Virtue is the highest form of friendship and exists when two people recognize and are attracted to the good in the other and their desire for the ultimate good of the other.
C. St. Thomas Aquinas, however, states that there is really only one true friendship and this consists of two things:
1. First, the two friends possess an unselfish love of the other…unselfish love means “no more than the constant, effective desire to do good to another.”
a) Please notice that the true friend does not desire what the other person desires…the friend desires to do good to the other…desires the good of the other.
b) A person’s friend might desire to do something that is not good for themselves, the true friend, however, desires not necessarily what their wants but what is actually good.
c) Hence, there can never be friends among thieves, because a thief desires something that is not good…to take another’s property…a thief desires to do something evil and so a person helping them to do evil or telling them it is good is not a friend.
2. Second, friends share a common ground upon which the two friends can walk. There is a similarity between them and they share a common goal…a common love of the good.
a) This means that true friends are going to be similar in their goodness.
b) An honest person will find it difficult to be friends with a person who cannot tell the truth…and a liar will find it impossible to be a friend to an honest person. They have no common ground on which to base their friendship.
c) True friends desire to unite their hearts and souls which is not possible when one soul is opposed to the good.
3. One commentator explained friendship this way. He wrote: “A door is thrown open and we are admitted to regions that are proper to God alone, for by friendship we stroll into the soul of another.”
4. Friends help each other move toward, work toward, being good.
IV. If this is true, then what about friendship with God?
A. It would seem that friendship with God is impossible.
1. God is divine…perfect…all-powerful…all-knowing…God is love.
2. We human beings are finite…fallible…and sometimes we do not love.
3. How can friendship with God be possible? There seems to be no common ground on which to base the friendship.
4. This, indeed, is the question posed here in this relationship between Jesus Christ, who is God, and Peter who is not only impetuous and fallible but even denies our Lord three times…
5. In fact, what Peter is doing here is not only telling our Lord that He does not want Him to fulfill His purpose on earth…to give His life for the salvation of mankind…Peter is actually trying to prevent Him from fulfilling it.
6. Whereas only a few minutes before, Jesus rightly explains that Peter’s profession of faith did not have a human but a divine origin and that Peter is the ROCK…now…Jesus is telling Peter that his attempt to prevent Him from giving His life on the cross is not divine but satanic and, in so far as he fails to be faithful in this, he is no longer the ROCK but a stumbling block.
B. What Jesus is saying to St. Peter is that the real love of friendship requires a sacrifice for the ultimate good which is union with God.
1. We realize as Jesus and Peter are locked in this very human and earthy struggle, they look up at one another and Jesus cuts Peter to the quick…looking Him in the eyes and calling Him “Satan,” forcing Peter to let go… so that Jesus can turn His eyes once again toward Jerusalem…on calvary…so that He can go and die for Peter…His good friend.
2. Peter was just like Satan, because He was preventing the Son of Man from climbing the wood of the cross to give His life for Peter Himself…and every other human being willing to unite themselves to Him. So, how can there be a common ground with the Christ who loves completely selflessly?
C. St. Thomas Aquinas explains that the common ground found in friendship with God comes not from human beings raising themselves up to be like God but from God creating, infusing, His divine life in us.
1. The common ground of our friendship actually comes from God making us capable of having friendship with Him.
2. This friendship is far more than camaraderie…far more than enjoyable company, because His divine life growing in us fills us with His charity which allows us to love God completely and all those God has created.
3. This love loves the good of the other and sees the hoped for good not yet achieved.
4. But, Christ then requires this same type of complete self-giving from us…this same type of love.
5. The one goal of love is to give itself away completely.
6. “Since friendship is unselfish love, what it brings about inside of the friend is that the friend forgets himself…and is concerned completely about the other.”
7. “Friendship is ultimately not about how it makes me feel inside but that everything inside is directed to someone other than me.”
V. Saint Peter learned this lesson.
A. Thirty years after this confrontation with Jesus, Peter would show himself to be a virtuous friend with Christ…would show Himself the ROCK when he gave his life on a cross not in Jerusalem but in Rome.
B. Peter opened himself to receive the great gift of divine life Christ desired to give him and, in so doing, realized that His friendship consisted not in preventing Christ from suffering but in offering the same sacrifice of love Christ offered.