Msgr. Stephen Rossetti reveals an interesting statistic about priesthood. He looked at all kinds of statistical data about priests with the question of what data would predict a good relationship with God. He concluded that the best predictor of a healthy relationship with God was whether or not a priest had good, healthy friendships with other people. At first, this might surprise us. Why would our friendships with other human beings have anything to do with our relationship with God? The answer is found in the Gospel, where Jesus tells us that the greatest commandment is to love God and our neighbor. In other words, these two commandments go hand in hand. One leads to the other.
Good friendship challenge us to be better. They can see through our lies and self-deception. Good friends also encourage us when we feel discouraged and can give us a healthy perspective on life. Friends are an image of God and a mirror of grace to me. They help me to be a better image of God. For most of us, the biggest obstacle to living our Christian faith is the fact that we do not have good Christian friendships. American culture encourages us to put all our relational needs and energy into the one sexual relationship with a boyfriend, girlfriend or spouse. In the process we neglect our other friendships because they don’t give us any tangible benefits. Most of what we call “friendships” are really just shallow, superficial relationships. Do an inventory of your life. If you were struggling with something deep, such as alcoholism, which of your friends would care enough to find out about it, and to stick with you through it? If you can’t think of someone, then you have no real friends.
What if you have no friends, how do you make some? You start by being a friend to others. Could others depend on you to help them through a really dark and trying period? If not, then you are not really being a friend either. When Christ sent out the Apostles, he sent them out in pairs of two. So take good care of the true friendships that you have. You will never have many truly deep Christian friendships, but the ones you do have are well worth the work. Invest in them, work at them, and nourish them. You will find that your Christian life blossoms, and theirs does too.