The Meaning of Human Friendship

By Fr. Michael Giesler


The mystery of co-redemption is based on deep and personal friendship with Jesus Christ. He is our greatest friend first of all by redeeming us. And as a result of knowing and loving Him, we bring Him to others. Or, as another way of saying it, Christ our friend works in us to bring others to His friendship.

Our Lord was the best of friends not only to His disciples but to all of those around Him. We see this constantly in the Gospel. He befriends the Samaritan woman who needed so much help (see John 4:7–30); He loves staying at the house of Lazarus, Martha, and Mary in Bethany, where He found family warmth and sincere conversation which He cherished so much (see John 11:5); He accompanies the two disciples who were leaving Jerusalem, about to give up their belief in Him, and He strengthens and encourages them (see Luke 24:32).

In the end, friendship is the message of His life since He came to the world to welcome all men and women into His family—the Father, Himself, and the Holy Spirit—and to bring all people to eternal happiness through His Church, His Mystical Body on earth, which extends His truth and love throughout the centuries. Real friendship always leads to the sharing of the good with the other; Christ does this during His entire life on earth and beyond. By coming to the world, He shares His charity and His humanity with us in a complete way, as He actually became one of us, with a body and soul like ours. And because He is fully God and fully man at the same time, He enables us to find grace and divine meaning in all human activities.

The true friend, by sharing his life and ideas with another, gives his friend a certain new meaning and joy, which can often bring him out of loneliness or sadness. Christ, who is the perfect friend, draws all of us out of sadness and confusion. We don’t really know ourselves until we discover Christ. For this reason, the Second Vatican Council states that He fully reveals man to himself. He shows how life can be restored and elevated in us, especially in those things that have been lost or disfigured by sin. His friendship brings us grace and hope, leading us to a complete union with Himself and His Father. And He does all of this by becoming one of us completely, body, soul, mind, and heart. Remember this magnificent quote from the Second Vatican Council: “For, by His Incarnation, He, the Son of God, in a certain way united Himself with each man. He worked with human hands, He thought with a human mind, He acted with a human will, and with a human heart He loved.”

Ultimately, Christ’s friendship with us culminated on the Cross, where He shed His blood and died for us. This was the supreme gift of friendship because it forgave all of our sins and opened the gate of eternal life to us. “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. . . . but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you”(John 15:13, 15).

We, too, in a participatory but real way, can become co-redeemers as we work with Christ the great Friend and help our companions to come closer to Him. We, too, can bring truth and joy to them, removing the darkness and sadness that life often brings and sharing with them the path to personal fulfillment and eternal happiness. The Old Testament states that “a faithful friend is a sturdy shelter: he that has found one has found a treasure” (Sirach 6:14).

All human persons have the basic need of relating to another person. Since human beings are created in the image and likeness of God Himself, and God is one Being in three Persons Who know and love each other, our own person needs to reach out and find others in order to be fulfilled. Marriage itself, we have seen, is a kind of friendship, very unique and powerful, between a man and a woman; it consists of a partnership throughout life with a common goal. It ultimately involves the sharing of the good between husband and wife, parents and children.

But friendship is not limited to the immediate family. Parents and children need to have friends outside of the home who will provide experiences and insights that a single family cannot give. God’s truth and goodness are spread throughout the world and are manifested in different individuals with different life experiences; no two human beings are the same. Friendship with others enriches and enhances a man’s personality since it allows him to get out of himself both by learning from and giving to another.

FR. MICHAEL GIESLER is a priest of the Prelature of Opus Dei who lives in Saint Louis, Missouri. He has written a trilogy of books about the early Christians and their transforming influence in the world during the first centuries after Christ, along with many articles about Scripture and contemporary topics. Fr. Giesler is also the author of a short book with practical advice for helping young people to do mental prayer. He has taught and offered spiritual direction for both priests and laymen for over forty years.

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There is an important truth too many Christians don’t know: we are called to actively participate in the redemption Christ won for us on the Cross. This is  at once simple and complex—how can we be co-redeemers? With a clear and lively style, How Christ Saves Souls—with Us: The Mystery of Co-Redemption calls the everyday Catholic to embrace their role as a partaker in Christ’s redeeming grace. Fr. Michael Giesler uses sound theological and scriptural backing to illustrate, in practical terms, how each of us can truly be another Christ, Christ Himself (ipse Christus), in our words and actions.