Some weeks back, we viewed Eve Tushnet’s talk, ‘Gay and Catholic’. A point she raised was the vocation of friendship that people with SSA can aspire to live and share. Such a vocation, she pointed out, is “best lived out by people with SSA through an intimacy of love that cares for others and allows others to care for you”. Such intimacy is not expressed physically in sex.
Today, I am inviting us to reflect deeper on this vocation of friendship people with SSA, in particular, can have and live. To do this, let us return to the foundation of this kind of friendship — the friendship we share with Jesus. If we say Jesus is our friend and this friendship is the foundation of our Christian lives, then, all the friendships Jesus calls us to have with others have their roots in no other place than in our friendship with him. Indeed, our friendships with others is indeed no more than living out what Christ asks of us – to love one another as He has loved us, writes Anne Yeong in her reflection, “What is Christ-centered friendship?”
Here are some points Anne makes (parahrased in parts) about Christ-centered friendship that is worth reflecting on if you and I wish to have a Christ-centered friendship with others:
The first level of genuine friendship is charcterised by this truth — For where love is, God is.
When someone else and I share a love for God… we experience an amazing spiritual bond that cannot be found in other friendships. Our common love for Christ brings our friendship to a different level altogether… For not only is God present in such a friendship, he is consciously welcomed into the friendship and celebrated.
There is still an even higher level of Christ-centered friendship to aspire to — where friends dedicate themselves to perfect their faithfulness to God in their own lives and in the friendships shared. This means honouring God first in my life, not only in word, but in deed. It means consciously and intentionally building my friendship with God as the most important relationship in my life, so that I may be made holy and chaste in all my relationships. It means letting my love and trust for God be the source of all my actions.
This means putting up boundaries to protect my sacred space even from those I am closest to, and learning to recognize and respect their boundaries as well, even when they are not aware of those boundaries. It means desiring that my friend have a deep abiding love with God even more than I desire him to have a deep bond with me. It means taking a step back from a cherished friendship when I recognize that I might be in the way of God’s growing His friendship with a friend I love. It means truly seeking God’s will to be done in my life and my friend’s, and subjecting our friendship to the greater glory of God’s kingdom.
A truly Christ-centered friendship is one where I can lay down my life for my friend and love him as Christ does. This calls for a truly pure and selfless love that our wounded and insecure hearts are not naturally capable of. But we must desire it, and we must believe that it is possible, because such friendships that seek God first .One mark of such a friendship is that it becomes a source of blessing for others, and not just for the ones in the friendship.
Are you perhaps thinking that this is too high a standard for friendship? It is no more than living out what Christ asks of us – to love one another as He has loved us (Jn 13:34). It will be hard; we will have to die to our selves and our wants many times. But it is possible with God’s grace.
You can read her reflection here: https://www.catholic.sg/
Having read Anne’s reflection, take some time this week to reflect on these questions as part of your prayer:
- As a person with SSA and a Catholic, do you invite Jesus into your friendship with others, especially with other people with SSA? Or, do you struggle to do this? What helps you make room for Jesus in your friendships and what makes it difficult for you to do this?
- Consider your relationship with Jesus. Is he your closest, most cherished friend? How intimate is your friendship with Jesus — do you share everything with him and hide nothing? Spend some time with Jesus and speak with him about how you see your friendship, asking him how your friendship together can be more intimate, if you truly desire to deepen your friendship.
- Anne writes that “God should be source of all our actions” in friendship, including keeping boundaries to safeguard right relationships with God and others. She also writes that true friends help one another grow in friendship with God; they help help each other seek God’s will and live in God’s ways. Is this the kind of friendship you have with your friends, especially, with friends who have SSA, or do your expectations and wants determine these friendships? Take your time and share with Jesus your thoughts and feelings about Anne’s point and the friendships you now have.
Words of Encouragement for this week
The greatest saints in the history of the Church did not make their journey on their own, but were challenged, supported, and encouraged by close friends (many of whom were saints themselves). The saints didn’t do it alone. You don’t have to either.