November 12, 2010
Memorial of Saint Josaphat, bishop and martyr
By Melanie Rigney
Anyone who is so “progressive” as to not remain in the teaching of the Christ does not have God; whoever remains in the teaching has the Father and the Son. (2 John 4:9)
Open my eyes to see clearly the wonders of your teachings. (Psalms 119:18)
He said to them, “Where the body is, there also the vultures will gather.” (Luke 17:37)
Jesus, it begins and ends with you. I know true love and true freedom can be found in carrying the cross.
I was at a retirement party recently, and one speaker described the honoree as “a friend of God.” We like to be around friends of God, the speaker said; they help us deepen our own spiritual relationship by example and instruction.
To paraphrase the psalmist, friends of God help to open our eyes to see the wonders of His ways. But for some gnostic groups in the time of the first reading’s writer, the way wasn’t through Christ in the flesh, according to the New American Bible. Understanding his physical life was important, but it was only a first step that believers would put behind them as they grew in knowledge of the spiritual Christ. To many gnostics, whether Jesus returned from the dead physically didn’t matter; it was a person’s spiritual maturity that determined whether the resurrected Christ was present. The leaders of the early Church disagreed. Christ was fully divine and fully human, they said; you can’t separate the two.
And maybe that’s why “friends of God,” whether they be Abraham or Jacob or the person next door, are so important to our spiritual growth. We see the intimacy and confidence in their relationship with the Lord, not simply by their piety but also by the way they interact with others. And by the thoughtfulness of their words and the maturity of their actions, they show us how to return that gift of friendship God offers to us all.
A friendship with God isn’t solely about being on your knees ten hours a day. Even if you’re called to be a contemplative, at some point in the day you’re going to have to deal with other people within your community. It’s learning to live a Christian life in the world, “where the body is,” as Luke wrote, that the challenges arise. And it’s there that our friends of God can help shoo away the vultures.
Where are the vultures threatening your spiritual life? Reach out to a friend of yours and God’s for help.