Spiritual Friendship

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Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all encouragement, who encourages us in our every affliction, so that we may be able to encourage those who are in any affliction with the encouragement with which we ourselves are encouraged by God.

2 Cor. 1:4

Recently I received a communication from a friend who wrote: “. . . so would a community benefit from the life you desire to discover for yourself (which is really for others).” What God gives at our depth is always not only a gift for us but also a gift to the world. This was the discovery that St. Paul made and expressed in the letter to the Galatians (2:20): “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

My friend wrote to me in response to my expression of feeling anxious about my ability to carry out adequately a task I was facing. I had expressed a concern about whether or not I could do, at the functional level, what I needed to do. His response, however, awakened me to the truth that the issue was not primarily one of function but one of being. It is by being true to and living out the life I am called to live that I serve the community around me and the world. I need not be anxious about external outcomes if I am being true to the life of Christ within me.

So often in life we experience a painful gap between the life we are living out and the gift of the unique Christ form that we have received. Perhaps much of the sadness, depression, and anxiety that is part of our life is due to a pre-reflective spiritual awareness that the life we are living is not yet the life of Christ in us, that what is false in us has not yet been crucified with Christ.

This gap we experience is not one we are able to bridge by ourselves. St. Paul expresses to the Corinthians that God encourages us in our afflictions that we might offer God’s encouragement which we have received to others. Life and the gifts that are part of life are given to us not merely for ourselves but for others. True friendship consists in the encouragement we give to each other to live the life of our deepest desire, our desire to live God’s life in us. Among the greatest manifestations of God’s love for us are those with whom God gifts us on our path of life, those who challenge us to deeper life by offering to us the encouragement of God himself which they have been given.

In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.

  Albert Schweitzer

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