21 July 2009. Tuesday of the 16th Week in Ordinary Time
Exodus 14, 21 - 15, 1; Exodus 15; Matthew 12, 46-50
This passage seems tragic: not Jesus’ nearest and dearest relatives were rejected by Jesus, saying “my mother and my brothers are those who do the will of my Father in heaven.” However, we also see that Jesus’ nearest and dearest relatives did not quite understood him. In John 7, 5, we read that “Even his brothers id not believe in him” and in Mark 3, 21, we encounter that his friends tried to restrain him, for they said that he was mad. He seemed to them that Jesus was throwing his life away with what he was doing.
Nevertheless, Jesus presents to us a practical truth: that we actually find ourselves closer to people who do not belong to our kinsfolk. The reality is that sometimes the deepest friendships are not blood relationships. They are our relationships with whoever connects with us: mind to mind, heart to heart. They are with people who share our common interests, common goals, common principles, or those who compliment them. Thus there are friends who like each other’s company because they are of opposite poles. It is in this sharing that they become truly kith and kin.
So today, let me present to you several themes and see who among your acquaintances --- or relatives for that matter ---- fall under people whom you can consider kith and kin. What constitutes kith and kin?
1. Family background. My friend knows something about my family background. He has visited my home, knows some of my siblings, or just heard me talk about my childhood and adolescent years. He has some understanding of why I am the way I am. Does my friend know my family history?
2. My current life situation. My friend knows what is going on in my life here and now, my joys and struggles in living everyday life, my worries and what occupies my time. Which among my friends are most familiar with my current life situation?
3. My inmost desires. My friend knows about my goals, directions and more importantly my desires as a person. As I share with him these desires, he is willing to offer encouragement, clarification, and when necessary, challenge. Which among my friends do I turn to when needing to share the deeper longings of my heart?
From St. Francis Xavier to St. Ignatius of Loyola: “Your holy Charity (Ignatius) writes to me of the great desires which you have to see me before you leave this life. God our Lord knows the impression which these words of great love made upon my soul and how many tears they cost me every time that I remember them.”
4. My negative feelings. With a friend, I am more willing to ventilate and share my negative feelings or doubts about a wide variety of matters. I feel “safe” in sharing such concerns and feelings. Whom among my friends do I trust enough to freely share my negative feelings?
5. Wishing the good of the other. I genuinely wish the good of my friend. If his “good” means our separation geographically or even his departure from my barkada, then, even though it costs me personal pain, I wish it for him. Do my actions and attitudes convey to my friend a genuine desire for what is best for him?
6. Challenge. I am more comfortable (as is my friend) when we do this with one another, since our life histories together grant permission for such mutual intrusion. To challenge in other for both of us to grow. How comfortable am I with lovingly challenge and give feedback as well as accepting challenge and feedback from my friend?
7. Positive feelings. The predominant feeling emanating from this friendship is positive: a friend stirs in my feelings of joy and gratitude. In turn, my positive feelings become my motivating factors that energize my endeavors, my studies, my other relationships. Do my positive feelings when experiencing this friendship leave me more grateful for my life?
8. Discreet silence. Just as we might know what to say to a friend, we also know what not to say. Part of friendship is an awareness of what need not be mentioned or discussed. This is totally different from the common notion that one becomes a friend unless one shares “everything” and “every little secret.” When with my friend, do I have an intuitive sense of what not to say as wells as of what to say? Do I abstain from raising certain issues that need not be mentioned at that time, and perhaps need best to postpone it some other time when my friend is ready for it?
9. Disclosing personal secrets. My friend knows things about my life that are reserved for a select few. What do I share with my friend? Do I know him as well as I would like to? Are there areas we avoid speaking about?
10. Spiritual life. We engage is spiritual conversation, encourage one another to speak of matters that concern faith and the longings of our souls that includes each other’s spiritual struggles and desires. This friendship enriches my solitude, for it leads me to be more self-aware and creative about my life and desires. With whom in my numerous friends can I share my spiritual life? How am I different now because of this friend of mine?
In sum, the notion of friendship is an extraordinarily rich one. Ultimately, they must be experienced and risked in the daily ins and outs of our lives, lives that incorporate and share our joys, hurts, hopes and sorrows of being human. There is reason why Jesus calls us his friends, his “mother and brothers and sisters to him.” St. Robert Southwell SJ once wrote as follows:
“If you love a friend so much, if he or she is so attractive that everything he asks of you, you would agree to; and if it is so sweet to sit and talk with him, describe your mishaps to him--- then with ho much more trust should you betake yourself to God, the God of goodness, converse with him, show him your weakness and distress, for he has greater care of you that you have of yourself, indeed he is more intimately you than you are.”
St. Robert Southwell SJ affirms that there is indeed something in our experience of friendship that brings us closer to the Lord, for every experience of friendship provides us with a taste of heaven --- just as Jesus said, “whoever does the will of the Father is brother, sister and friend to me.”