18 October 2007. Thursday of the 28th Week in Ordinary Time
2 Timothy 4, 10-17; Psalm 145; Luke 10, 1-9
The readings today speak about friendship and discipleship. Jesus sends 72 disciples to go ahead of him to towns he intends to visit. They were to see whether the towns were favorable to them and their mission. They were also sent in pairs: maybe to function like support groups. And Paul, in his second letter to Timothy, tells us about his friends who deserted him and those who supported him. The Psalm today tells us that friends make known the splendor of the Kingdom.
Let us take one of the names that Paul mentions in the first reading. We hear about Demas. Demas appears three times in the New Testament, specifically in Paul’s letters. Demas is referred by Paul in Philemon as a ‘fellow worker’; then he is just mentioned (without designation) in Colossians; and now, in Timothy as a renegade ‘who loves the present world.’ There is a digression here in terms of friendship: from partnership to abandonment.
That is all we know about Demas, but we can use our imagination to put things together for our purpose. We’ll call the first phase as the “Philemon phase”: we can look at our relationships that are going down the route of Demas. There are friendships that begin with a ‘spark’ --- you suddenly connect with them and you seem to have been friends for years. There are those who are interesting because you are able to share many common things: from interests to likes and dislikes.
The second, we call as the “Colossians phase”. The romance of the first meeting suddenly wears off. The negative traits begin to appear; the differences begin to show; there are more times when there are disagreements than concurrence, or discord than harmony. Then communication fizzles out little by little; emails and text messages become infrequent. Then the friend becomes just one of the many ‘acquaintances’ we have. They become just ‘one of them’.
And finally, we call it the “Timothy phase” when the friendship dies. For Paul, saying that Demas ‘loved the present world’ might mean that Demas would rather abandon Paul’s friendship than face the difficulties and challenges of relationships --- and faith for that matter. During Paul’s time, it was inevitable that a disciple would feel uncomfortable, ridiculed, imprisoned, and unaccepted. With our present time, relationships and faith undergo difficulties. Often, the test of the depth of friendship is in the storms both friends weather together. If one is not willing to face the challenges, the relationship becomes stagnant and eventually dies.
Perhaps we can glimpse why sending disciples in pairs becomes a wise decision: depth is achieved through dialogue and communication.