Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Memorial of Saint Basil the Great and Saint Gregory Nazianzen, bishops and doctors of the Church

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

Today the Church recognizes two theologians, Basil (called “the Great”) and Gregory Nazianzen.  It honors them together not just because they were contemporaries but, more importantly, because they were close friends.  It seems as if the Church wants us to begin the New Year with a reflection on friendship.

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 love, each gladly yielded highest honors to the other.

Aristotle sees various levels of friendship.  We like some people because they are useful for business purposes.  We enjoy others for their good humor or interesting viewpoints.  But we reserve our deepest love for virtuous people in whom we see reflections of ourselves.  They possess the goodness that we wish to attain.  More than that, they help us achieve virtue by their honesty and care.

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 better friends to our acquaintances and to seek a closer friendship with Jesus.