The very first milestone Sunday gospel of Lent, we meet the Leper, that Jesus notices. He sees the one that most of us do not even see, and that we pretend to avoid, under the pretext: “I don’t want to catch what you have”. He sees him, he talks to him as a man, and he heals him. In 1948 Mother Teresa noticed a man lying in a Calcutta gutter, one man in a city of 13 million. She saw the man no one else saw. She picked him up, washed him, fed him, and looked at him. He looked back at her and asked, “why are you doing this?” She replied simply, “Because I love you.” The man smiled, and then died. Another man told her that he had lived like and animal but would die as an angel, in her arms. God makes every one of us capable of divine love, if we pray to him, discipline our bodies, and practice daily acts of charity. Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving lay the groundwork for heartfelt love.
Love begins at home, to be sure, and so make quite sure you meet the daily obligations of domestic love - patience with your spouse and children, kindness toward an annoying relative, small acts of thoughtfulness to siblings and grandparents. But we need friends as well, and generally one has only two or three very close friends in a lifetime. I have two very close friends, both priests, without whom I would not have survived as a priest. In addition to two or three close friends, we need a supportive community of people who believe what we believe and desire what we desire. Rod Dreher articulates this in his famous book The Benedict Option. “If you don’t have the support of a small community of believers”, he writes, “you will lose your faith”. Christian friendship is organic to Christianity, a matter of spiritual life and death. We are made in God’s image, who is himself a community of persons. Christ formed a community of twelve friends while on earth. You too must form authentic friendships with other Catholics if you are to be happy and do God’s work. Pray together, work together, eat together, take vacations together. Make the effort to build convivium, the Latin word that best describes the Last Supper. So many lonely people pass through some church doors, desperately lonely people, and it need not be so. Ask God to give you friends, and then risk forming deep friendships, and God will give you true love. That’s Something to think about.