Homilette for Friday, January 2, 2009

Memorial of Saints Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzan, bishops and Doctors of the Church

(I John 2:22-28; John 1: 19-28)

Today the Church honors two theologians, Basil (called “the Great”) and Gregory Nazianzen. It celebrates them together not just because they were contemporaries but also because they were friends. The Church seems to be calling us to reflect on friendship as we begin the new year.

Gregory Nazianzen once preached about his friendship with Basil. He said that both came to Athens as students where they competed with one another to learn as much as possible. But, he went on, their rivalry never resulted in envy over each other’s achievements; rather, out of mutual love, they gladly yielded to one another the highest honors.

Aristotle sees various levels of friendship. He says that we befriend some people because they are useful for economic purposes and others because of their good humor or interesting viewpoints, but we reserve our deepest love for virtuous people in whom we see reflections of our ideal selves. These friends possess the goodness that we wish to attain. More than that, they help us achieve virtue by their honest and caring conversation.

At the end of the Gospel According to John, Jesus tells his disciples that they are his friends. He loves them deeply and wants them to share in the unity which he enjoys with God. One worthwhile resolution for the new year is to strive to be better friends to all our acquaintances and especially to Jesus, our perfect friend.