The other side of the Eucharist is friendship.
It often happens that week after week, year after year, Christians sit and kneel next to practical strangers in church on Sundays. They leave Mass as they entered, nodding and saying hello to people they do not ever really come to know.
And in our time it is not unusual for people to find more ersatz interpersonal communication on the Internet than at church or anywhere else in their lives. Which, when you think about it, is a sad state of affairs. The Internet has its place, but typing is not the same as talking and meeting, real sharing with real friends.
Can electronics ever substitute for someone who is really there for you in all your joys, sorrows, fears and questions?
Perhaps the Internet is better than nothing. It is arguable. But human beings thirst for real friendship. The Gospel and the Faith need to be discussed with friends, our questions and perplexities need to be considered and addressed.
Marriage and family should go a long way to this end of true interpersonal sharing. And it is another reason to uphold the blessing and sanctity of marriage. But sadly many young people today are finding marriageable partners harder and harder to find. Our deeply anti-christian Western culture has become hostile to traditional marriage because of its generally Christian connotations and meanings. Marriage is increasingly rejected for the same reason that Christ is rejected. Commitment is thought to be too hard, or unacceptable by one’s own standards. It intolerably impinges personal autonomy.
Loneliness is often eventually the bitter consequence of such thinking.
Catholics have long been talking or typing about “community”. But this word has often collapsed into mere theological jargon. It too can become another addition into the lexicon of loneliness.
When Jesus Our Lord washed the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper he was not ritualizing. He said, “I have earnestly longed to eat this passover with you before I suffer“.
He related the Meal to his imminent suffering and he wished to be with his disciples, his friends, on the eve of this suffering.
Then, just after His Eucharistic Self-Offering, a strange thing happened. His disciples, emotionally intoxicated by what they had just witnessed and experienced, began arguing with one another about who will be the greatest in the coming Kingdom.
Jesus looked at them and said,
“The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26 But not so with you; rather let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. 27 For which is the greater, one who sits at table, or one who serves? Is it not the one who sits at table? But I am among you as one who serves.
He girded himself with a towel and washed their feet.
“Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. [John:13] “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example, that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (*)
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Fritz Eichenberg’s drawing shows us how to find and be friends. By having a willingness to serve any whom we meet who might be in need, whether physically, spiritually, or emotionally, without regard for self. The parable of The Good Samaritan shows us who our neighbors are, those whom we are to love according to the word of the Lord.
A few kind words to a lonely person, clothing, money or food to someone else in need, genuine sympathy in a time of trouble with another… and, for us all, the Spiritual Works of Mercy:
Counsel the doubtful
instruct the ignorant
comfort the afflicted
bear wrongs patiently
pray for the living and the dead
We Christians need to be available to one another— not just collectively, but individually when the need arises in our own lives. This is the other dimension of orthodoxy. This is traditional Catholicism. — SH.
(*) emphasis added
—- Fr. Frank Pavone post updated to include Michael Lofton’s POV