A few years ago, I met a Chinese student who was pursuing his graduate studies in one of the top universities in the United States. This fellow made a statement which was shocking to me at that time. He said that he only had two or three friends. In retrospect, this student posited an interesting philosophical and theological point about how many friends one can have. Christianity’s fundamental command to us is to love everyone as oneself. However, the question remains whether we can love everyone? It was Aristotle who said that a “friend of everybody is a friend of nobody.” One of the great Jesuit Missionaries, Matteo Ricci, in his “Treatise on Friendship” shared that the Chinese struggled with the question of friendship. Ricci cited a story of a renowned ancient Confucius scholar who cut open a large pomegranate. Someone asked him: ‘Master, what things would you like to have as numerous as these seeds’? To which he responded: ‘Fruitful friends.’” Obviously, one cannot have it the same way at the same time.
Today’s first reading is from the book of Ecclesiasticus and it says that faithful friends are “a sturdy shelter”, “a treasure”, something “beyond price”, “life-saving medicine”. Reflect on your friendships with others? Do you believe that you could have as many friends as you would like? Or, perhaps Facebook friends are good enough for you. What about the idea of eternal life? It is the only possible solution to resolve the difficulty of friendship. Jesus once stated: “I no longer call you servants, but friends”. Speak with Jesus now about your friendships and ask for his help if you need it so as to build up friendships. And, talk with Jesus about your friendship with Him.