24 May, 2013. Friday of the Seventh Week
Sir 6:5ff. Let your friends be tried and trusted. A faithful friend is a tonic.
Mk 10:1ff. Jesus’ condemnation of divorce and remarriage.
First Reading: Sirach 6:5-17
Pleasant speech multiplies friends, and a gracious tongue multiplies courtesies.
Let those who are friendly with you be many, but let your advisers be one in a thousand.
When you gain friends, gain them through testing, and do not trust them hastily.
For there are friends who are such when it suits them, but they will not stand by you in time of trouble.
And there are friends who change into enemies, and tell of the quarrel to your disgrace.
And there are friends who sit at your table, but they will not stand by you in time of trouble.
When you are prosperous, they become your second self, and lord it over your servants; but if you are brought low, they turn against you, and hide themselves from you.
Keep away from your enemies, and be on guard with your friends.
Faithful friends are a sturdy shelter: whoever finds one has found a treasure.
Faithful friends are beyond price; no amount can balance their worth.
Faithful friends are life-saving medicine; and those who fear the Lord will find them.
Those who fear the Lord direct their friendship aright, for as they are, so are their neighbours also.
Gospel: Mark 10:1-12
He left that place and went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan. And crowds again gathered around him; and, as was his custom, he again taught them.
Some Pharisees came, and to test him they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.” But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
Then in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”
Marriages and Friendships that Endure
The gospel applies to marriage an insight that is also in Sirach, about friendship and truthfulness. Though our acquaintances be many, only “one in a thousand” should be our confidant, or our partner in life. A quality of marriage highlighted in today’s scripture is the need to persevere in it, as in a true friendship.
Sirach opens his mini-essay on friendship with the advice: “A kind mouth multiplies friends, and gracious lips prompt friendly greetings.” We should begin with a smile, making our first communication one of interior joy and peace, showing ourselves at peace within and with God. His wisdom is put to the service of the students in his Jerusalem school, who “take up lodging in the house of instruction” (Sir 51:23). His guidance is both peaceful and cautious, for he counsels: “When you gain a friend, first test him, and don’t be too ready to trust him.” He proceeds to the positive qualities of a true friend, who will be like “your other self; a treasure beyond price; a sturdy shelter, a life-saving remedy.” It is understandably a popular reading for weddings.
The true friend, the treasure beyond price, may eventually become one’s spouse, since the move from friendship to marriage is part of most people’s life-plan. Still, the sturdiness of such relationships will be tested, and when hardships and misunderstandings come our way, we could use the advice of St James not to grumble at each other. . Patience and steadfastness are the virtues that enable friendship and marriage to survive the mountain passes and so to reach the sunshine on the other side.
Much can be lost by giving up too easily, abandoning a love that we have pledged. In the stern language of Jesus such a break is bluntly called “adultery.” This was not what God intended, when in the beginning he made them male and female. “For this reason a person shall leave father and mother and the two shall become as one… let no human agency separate what God has joined.” Just as Sirach would not have us commit lightly or quickly to a friendship, so our Gospel warns us not to disrupt what God has personally blessed and united.