Spiritual friendships

Spiritual friendships

Today’s Office of Readings continues Samuel’s account of the rift between Saul and David. Jonathan, however, is unfailing in his loyalty to David, whom he loved “as his own soul.”

The Second Reading takes up the theme of spiritual friendship. St Aelred presents David and Jonathan as outstanding examples of “a true and perfect friendship, solid and eternal.”

I imagine our Lord cultivated similar friendships with the Twelve. Jesus was not a mere acquaintance, nor a distant rabbi. He confided in the apostles, and probably showed them a lot of affection. They must have been, I think, very close. Which means their absence at his trial and execution must have hurt Jesus deeply. Nonetheless, his friendship was such that it enabled the apostles — Judas excepted — to forgive themselves, to accept the Lord’s forgiveness, and renew their love and devotion.

It’s probably fair to say that in the present day, close and affectionate friendships between men are rare. I’m not sure I agree with the author of today’s Universalis reflection, that these relationships are frequently eroticised:

Once upon a time, there was friendship. Once upon a time, society accepted that the love of friends could be the single most important thing in a person’s life, and they did more than just accept, they celebrated the fact . . . But today no love is accepted as valid that is not in some way sexual, and even if we set out to reject the sex-obsessed outlook of today’s society, we think in those terms despite ourselves. When St Aelred writes of “this most loving youth”, we all say to ourselves “oh yes” in a knowing way, sure that we have guessed the smutty truth.

But then again, the popular term for such relationships these days is “bromance,” so perhaps I’m being naive.

Though it is only vaguely connected, this ad is funny enough to demand inclusion, on the shaky presmise that it illustrates the importance of close mates in a happy marriage:

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