Friends can have a positive and negative impact on our own journey to God.
It shouldn’t be surprising that many saints were friends with other saints!
St. Francis de Sales in his Introduction to the Devout Life explains the role of friendship in the lives of the saints and even in the life of Jesus Christ.
No one can deny that our dear Lord loved Saint John, Lazarus, Martha, Magdalene, with a specially tender friendship, since we are told so in Holy Scripture; and we know that Saint Paul dearly loved Saint Mark, Saint Petronilla, as Saint Paul Timothy and Thecla. Saint Gregory Nazianzen boasts continually of his friendship with the great Saint Basil … Saint Jerome, Saint Augustine, Saint Gregory, Saint Bernard, and all the most notable servants of God, have had special friendships.
A good friend can lift us up and help us be a better person. When we are experiencing a dry spell, they can encourage us and support us when we feel like nothing is working.
Truly it is a blessed thing to love on earth as we hope to love in Heaven, and to begin that friendship here which is to endure for ever there. I am not now speaking of simple charity, a love due to all mankind, but of that spiritual friendship which binds souls together, leading them to share devotions and spiritual interests, so as to have but one mind between them. Such as these may well cry out, “Behold, how good and joyful a thing it is, brethren, to dwell together in unity!“
On the other hand, friends can also bring us down if we do not choose well those we associate with. A bad friend is someone who leads us in the opposite direction, confirming us in our sin and taking us away from God.
Often we can judge the state of our soul by the friends we keep.
If we spend much time with friends who bring us down and lead us into sin, then our soul is in a dangerous place. However, if we associate with friends who encourage us, speak positively and pray with us, then we are on the right path.
While some people are called to evangelize their friends, not everyone has the strength to resist temptation when it appears and this must be carefully discerned. If we find ourselves being harmed in a spiritual way, we need to reconsider our choices and figure out a way to support our friends that does not endanger our soul.
Friendship is a beautiful part of life, but one that needs to be ordered to our ultimate goal of Heaven.
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