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God is our true Friend

In his Confessions (Conf. 8, 6, 15), St. Augustine tells a story that was related to him by an eyewitness, a story that helped to bring about his conversion.  Two friends, who served in the court of the Emperor at Trier and courted his friendship, retired one day to an outlying garden house.  There on the table they found a copy of the life of St. Anthony.  One of them read it, was touched by its contents and said to the other: “Tell me, I pray thee, just what do we wish to attain with all these efforts?  What are we seeking?  Why do we serve in the army?  Can we have any greater goal in the palace than to become friends of the Emperor?  And then what is there that is not perishable and full of danger?  And through how many dangers must we ascend to a greater danger?  And when shall we attain it?  But if I wish to be a friend of God, behold, I can do so in a moment.”  These words, spoken out of the depth of his soul, made a great impression on the other, and both immediately resolved to leave the court and seek in quiet retirement the friendship of the highest Lord, which lasts forever.

Let us imitate these wise men.  And if we do not leave the world entirely, as they did, let us trouble ourselves at least to prize the friendship of God highly than the friendship of the world.  Let us strive, according to the fundamental law of friendship, to unite ourselves with God, as He unites Himself with us, to become like Him, as He has made Himself like us and wishes to make us like Himself.  He has united Himself to us so intimately only that we may be, as true friends, of one mind, one will, one heart, and one spirit with Him.

“To will the same things and to reject the same things, that is true friendship,” according to an ancient philosopher. (Sallust. Catil. 20).  Let our aim be to will only what God wills and to love only what He loves.  For we can repay His love in no other way since we cannot raise Him up and enrich Him, as He has exalted and enriched His friends.

Friendship is one of the greatest needs and one of the most exalted blessings of the human heart; to love and to be loved is man’s desire and happiness.  The heart of man is so lonely that it must seek another heart outside of itself, to which it may attach itself and in which it may confide.  It cannot rest until it has found another heart that will share its sentiments and have compassion on its sufferings.  It becomes then one with such a heart, so that they both seem to beat with one pulsation.  Therefore we esteem ourselves fortunate when we have found such a heart.  Holy Scripture itself says: “Blessed is he that findeth a true friend.” (Ecclus. 25-12).

And yet we never find perfect contentment here.  The heart of our fellow man, no matter how noble and lovable, is always weak and imperfect, and it likewise seeks its consolation and happiness in our own heart.  Though the two give mutual support to one another, yet they are too narrow to be sufficient to themselves and therefore too weak to weather all storms.

What a happiness for us if we should find a heart that, itself infinitely noble and lovable, could penetrate our own and make it one wit itself, a heart that could give us along with itself all that we desire!

Such a heart you find, Christian soul, in your Lord and God, when you are united to Him by grace.  His divine heart comes so near to yours that it penetrates it and the two are melted into one, which then only one soul, one spirit vivifies.  And this heart is at the same time the highest good, containing in itself every good, every beauty, everything amiable.  All the love, all the sweetness that is in all the hearts in Heaven and on earth is found united in this heart-and infinitely more.

Of this heart alone is that entirely true which Holy Scripture says of true friends: “A faithful friend is a strong defense: and he that hath found him, hath found a treasure.  Nothing can be compared to a faithful friend and no weight of gold and silver is able to countervail the goodness of his fidelity.  A faithful friend is the medicine of life and immortality.” (Ecclus. 6:14-16).

God is a friend who is present to you, not merely from time to time, but who remains with you always, if you do not drive Him from you (by committing mortal sin).  God is a friend, not merely that you can press to your heart at times, but whom you have dwelling in your heart continually.  God is a friend to whom you do not have to express your sentiments by words; He understands and feels every beat of your heart.  You can reveal yourself entirely to Him, even more so than to yourself.  He understands and fathoms all your needs, your wishes and your feelings, better than you yourself.  He is a friend who has no faults, but He does have all perfection; a friend whose nearness to you is so much the more lovable and delightful the longer you enjoy His friendship.  His conversation hath no bitterness, nor His company any tediousness.  (Cf. Wis. 8:16).  And do you prize so little this one Friend and His friendship, to which grace introduces you, that you seek refuge in strangers rather than in Him?  Will you not attach yourself and give your heart to this great and only Friend, as He has given His to you?  How cruel you are to yourselv, not to mention ungrateful toward Him!

(From The Glories of Divine Grace by Fr. Matthias J. Scheeben (1835-1888), translated from German by Fr. Patrick Shaughnessay, O.S.B., published by Tan Books & Publishers, Rockford, Illinois, 2000)

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