This past week I had my first visitors to Cheyenne. Two college seminary friends who are now priests, Fr. Marvin Enneking of the St. Cloud Diocese, and Fr. Mark McCormick of Rapid City came to see how the new bishop is getting along. Their visit reminded me of the precious gift of friendship. It makes me appreciate the role friendship plays in helping us understand the relationship Christ seeks to have with each of us.
When I was a student in Rome, there was an Italian preist who worked in the Congregation For Clergy, Msgr. Mario Marini, who became a close friend, and who had a tremendous appreciation for the gift of “amicizia” (friendhsip). I learned recently that Msgr. Mario died this past May. Even though our contact over the years has been limited, I was deeply moved at the news of his death. This, too, spoke volumes to me of the value of friendship.
Another person who has taught me much of friendship is Bishop Bob Lynch of St. Petersburg, Florida. As many of you know, Bishop Lynch preached not only my first Mass as a newly ordained priest, but most recently also preached at my ordination and installation as the new bishop of Cheyenne. Friendship is a Gospel value. “This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.” (John 15:12-15)
Hopefully, we all know the treasure of a good friend, or many friends! I am grateful for the many friends that have sustained, loved, and supported me over the years. I’ve not been particularly good about sustaining such relationships, but with age comes wisdom, and I cherish friendships more and more. Friendships with individuals, married couples, and families have played a crucial role in my life as a priest. We are made for intimacy and love, because we are made for communion with God. I propose the LORD chose to call us friends, indeed to become our Friend, because frindship is a great portal to the experience of the ultimate Friendship, to become friends of God through His Son, Jesus Christ. This is what all the covenants over the span of the history of salvation offer, communion, friendship, intimacy with the God who is Love. May each of you be blessed with many good friends, the joy of friendship, and may these priveleged relationships help you to see the beauty of what our Good God offers each of us, to become friends of God.