Gathering helps recall importance of friends - Catholic Courier
Matthew H. Clark Matthew H. Clark

Gathering helps recall importance of friends

The bishops of the eight dioceses of New York regularly meet at the Pastoral Center of the Archdiocese of New York on the last Monday of January. We kept to that pattern this week. Our agenda was, as usual, wide ranging. It touched on matters of public policy, legislative proposals and a number of pastoral issues.

As you might expect, some of these issues are complex and very challenging ones. For that reason, among others, I always welcome hearing the experience, the thinking and hopes of my brother bishops. Often enough, they have insights or words of advice that I find to be of great practical use. Sometimes, strive as we might, we cannot come to a ready answer to our problems. But, always, I find great consolation in their company. It’s a reminder, not only that we bishops are in this together, but that we stand in solidarity with members of our faith community all over our state — and around the world.

On the trip to La Guardia Airport, and on the way home, I reflected on how the experience of the day reminded me of the importance of friends as we pass through the years of our lives. I mean people who care about us and root for us, people who understand our situation, who will encourage us when they think we’re on the right track and let us know in honest ways when they think we are not.

I count it among God’s many blessings that through my life I have had people who have offered me that kind of support. Some have been such friends for many years, and still are. Others are long deceased. I have lost contact with others because of the circumstances of our lives. On the flight home Monday, I made an effort to remember and pray for those generous people and to thank God for the many ways they have enriched my life.

Part of my reflection during those hours took me back to last Sunday’s Gospel. Remember, it told the story of the call of Simon and Andrew, James and John. Jesus invited them to follow him. They did so in trust and ultimately became people who invited others to deeper life and new possibilities in the Lord. I think that is what friends do for one another.

As always happens when we reflect on our blessings, I was led to think about the quality of the friendship I offer to others. Do I seek to give as much as I hope to receive? Do my words, actions and demeanor encourage, offer hope and consolation? Do they discourage, deflate or lead to confusion? I won’t disclose the answers I came up with in those musings, but I will say that it was a challenging and rewarding exercise to try it.

In these weeks of the church year that we call ordinary time, I’d invite you to be in touch with friendships — past and present — that have enriched your life. What are their names? What quality or aspect of their friendship meant most to you? What did you learn from them? How did they strengthen you and give you hope? What were you able to offer them in return?

For people of faith, I suppose we can summarize the questions: How has the Lord graced my life through my friends? How has the Lord called me, and how does the Lord call me now to share that grace with others?

Peace to all.

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