From the Pastor – May 17, 2009

Friendship and love are the keywords in the Gospel this weekend.  Even before Christ, these were heavily discussed topics among Greek philosophers and Roman orators. Friendship was so important to Cicero that he once said “Without friends no one would choose to live, even though he had all other goods.” But what is friendship? The Greek philosopher Aristotle mentions three “types” of friendships: the first type is where there is a quality in a person which gives me pleasure (I like this person because she’s funny), the second type is where the other person is useful to me in some way (I like this person because he takes me fishing), and the third type is when I recognize the goodness in another person that causes me to desire to be that person’s friend.  In the first two types, I am really concerned about whether the other person is either pleasurable or useful to me. The “friendship” is directed toward how the friendship affects me.  In the third type of friendship, it is not the pleasure or the usefulness that I desire, but the person that I love.  That’s true friendship, and that’s where we find love.

Over the centuries, many writers have tried to make distinctions about the various words that the Greeks had for love: eros, philia and agape. They tried to put them into categories, saying that eros meant erotic love, philia meant fraternal love and agape more closely meant the love that is God. In reality, the use of these words overlap throughout Sacred Scripture.  Love is a very difficult thing to define. We say that “God is love,” and be correct, but the truth is that we see love more easily in actions: the acts of showing love.

In a recent encyclical, the Holy Father gives us two words that show love: “compassion” and “consolation.” Both of these words come from Latin words with the prefect “con/com” meaning “with.”  Since “passio” means “suffering” and “solatio” means “alone,” then compassion means “to suffer with” and “consolation” means “to be with someone who is alone.” As Christians, each of us has an obligation to give to the poor and to support the mission of the Church with donations, but love is most perfectly demonstrated in our individual actions toward others. And more often than not, actions of love involve a sacrifice on our part.  Being with people who suffer – either physically or mentally – and spending time with those who are alone are two important ways of showing love. And sometimes that means loving someone who we don’t consider “loveable.” That’s when we can reflect on a prayer I recently heard: “Love me when I least deserve it, because that’s when I need it the most.” Love someone who needs it this weekend. In doing so, make God present.  Because where love is, there is God.

Rev. Msgr. Christopher H. Nalty