Friday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
In our era of Facebook, the concept of "friends" is interesting to ponder. Some people on Facebook "friend" anyone who requests a friendship with them; others are much more guarded, and "friend" only people who they really know well, because of privacy concerns. Either way, more than one cultural commentator has said that social networking seems to be changing the way we see our relationships with each other. We generally have looser connections with each other, but we have connections to more people. I think it is somewhat strange, actually, that I know more about what a good friend from my high school days who lives in another state is doing this morning than I do about my next door neighbors.
I'm not sure what Sirach might make of our contemporary technological culture, but I think he's closer to our situation than we might guess. Today's first reading (Sirach 6:5-17) does offer us some some very practical advice. Have many acquaintances, he says, but only a few friends. Our Facebook friends are really just "acquaintances" and it is possible, in today's technological format, to have many more of them even than in the past. This is good, for from those relationships might come the true friends we also need. Just as Sirach suggests that we should be cautious about counting acquaintances as "true friends" because they may be fair weather friends, or gossip about you to others, so we too should be cautious in both our internet and non-internet relationships. How much does technology really change the basic situation of being human?
To turn the tables on ourselves, what does it take to be one of those "true friends"? In today's gospel passage (Mark 10:1-12), Jesus discusses marriage in particular, but he is also beginning a longer discussion about many kinds of human relationships, and especially our relationship with Jesus himself, as we see in the rest of chapter 10. Being a friend of Jesus is demanding and means devoting yourself to him FIRST, and then letting other relationships be affected by that primary relationship. Jesus is much more demanding of human relationships than the culture of the time suggested. Jewish culture permitted divorce, but Jesus asks his disciples to go one better than that - divorce is unacceptable except in cases of adultery.
I wonder how often we treat Jesus more like an acquaintance or like one of our Facebook friends than like the friend he asks us to be? Do we have loose connections with him, only occasionally turning to him for some thoughts? Do we treat his words as just "status updates" - nice sayings that couldn't "possibly mean something for us today? Do we ourselves only briefly and occasionally give him our "status updates" and rarely think deeply enough about our own sins or the ways in which we are not living up to the high standards of friendship that he sets for us? Today let us think about the ways in which we might become more true friends of Jesus.
- Jana M. Bennett