A friend sent me an email this week with the text of a homily from several years ago by Fr. Raneiro Cantalamessa, preacher to the Pontifical Household, on friendship between men and women. The text is from Luke 10, on Jesus’ relationship with Mary and Martha. After noting the usual exegesis—that the passage is about the active and contemplative lives—Fr. Cantalamessa goes in a different direction:
I think, however, that the more evident theme is that of friendship. “Jesus loved Martha, together with her sister and Lazarus,” we read in John’s Gospel (11:5).
When they bring him the news of Lazarus’ death he says to his disciples: “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep but I am going to wake him up” (John11:11).
Faced with the sorrow of the two sisters he also breaks down and weeps, so much so that those who are present exclaim: “See how much he loved him!” (John 11:13).
It is wonderful and consoling to know that Jesus knew and cultivated that sentiment that is so beautiful and precious for us men—friendship…
[Friendship] is a mutual attraction and deep understanding between two people, but it does not have a sexual component as does conjugal love. It is a union of two souls, not two bodies. In this sense the ancients said that friendship is to have “one soul in two bodies.” It can be a stronger bond than that of family. Family consists in having the same blood in one’s veins. In friendship one has the same tastes, ideals, interests…
Friendship is also different from love of neighbor. The latter must embrace everyone, even those who do not return it, even enemies, while friendship demands reciprocity, that is, that the other corresponds to your love.
Friendship is nourished by confidences, that is, by the fact that I confide in another that which is deepest and most personal in my thoughts and experiences.
Sometimes I say to young people: Do you want to find out who your true friends are and rank them? Try to remember what have been the most secret experiences of your life—positive or negative—and ask yourself to whom you confided them: those are your true friends. And if there is something in your life, so deep and you have revealed it to one person only, that person is your best friend.
The Bible is full of praise of friendship. “A faithful friend is a strong support; whoever finds one has found a treasure” (Sirach 6:14ff.). The proof of friendship is fidelity.
Read the whole thing.