Have the salt of friendship among yourselves, and live in peace with one another. Mark 9:50b
Salt makes food taste good. Like salt, friendship enhances what nourishes our hearts. Of course, sharing laughter and good times with friends is enjoyable, but friends make the hard times more bearable, too. When I was bed-ridden, when family members were hospitalized, when depression had me in its clutches, friends who loved me couldn’t take away my pain. Still, somehow knowing they cared helped me face each day, when days seemed like an endless stream of pain. In God’s beautiful efficiency, it’s been a bittersweet joy and privilege to stand by my friends when their loved ones passed away, when their hearts were broken, when fear or discouragement loomed large for them. Powerless to take away their pain, I was able to do what I could and trust that the salt of friendship in some small way, helped make their trials a tiny bit more endurable.
When I was a child, I had trouble making friends and my Mom quoted the old adage to me: To have a friend, be a friend. That started me thinking about what I might have to offer someone else. Because of course, much of my hesitation about approaching others centered on fear of rejection, fear that I somehow wasn’t good enough. It helped to focus on what others might need instead of my own issues. I made several friends by “being a friend” to someone in need.
I was also on the receiving end of generous friendship. In high school, I was not “in crowd” material. By a stroke of luck, several neighborhood girls started including me in their group. I belonged. I had friends to walk home from school with and hang out with. Mutually rewarding, beautiful friendships developed among us. It wasn’t until years later that I found out those girls reached out to me because one of them felt sorry for me.
Although there is give and take in friendship, it’s not a commodity to be earned and paid for by good deeds and favors. It’s a life-enhancing gift that we are free to offer and accept.
Prayer: Lord, thank you for the gift of friendship.
Reflection for sharing: How can I invest some time in my friendships today?
“No one lights a lamp and puts it under a bowl; instead it is put on the lamp stand, where it gives light for everyone in the house. In the same way your light must shine before people, so that they will see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven.” Matthew 4: 15-16
Think of your top five flaws. Now think of your five best qualities. Which list was easier to come up with? If you’re like me, it was probably the list of flaws. Where did we get the idea that being humble meant being a shrinking violet or thinking negative things about ourselves?
Jesus tells us we’re supposed to let our light shine so that others will see it. But isn’t that being a conceited show-off? Not if we look at the rest of the passage.
First, Jesus says no one lights a lamp and puts it under a bowl. We have a light to shine not because we created it ourselves, but because God “lit” us with His light. We all have talents and skills, but those are gifts from God. We are not being conceited if we use the abilities He gave us. Hiding the gifts God gave us in the name of humility is counter-productive.
Second, we are right where we need to be to let our light shine. Whatever “lamp stand” we have been put on—whatever our present circumstances—we are right where God wanted our particular light to serve His purpose.
Finally, what is that purpose? Not to impress others with our inflated egos, but to “praise [our] Father in heaven.” St. Francis said to preach the Gospel always and if you have to, use words. What we do coveys a powerful message. We can share the Good News about God by using our gifts. We can appreciate our gifts in healthy humility by gratefully acknowledging the Giver. We can help others by letting our light shine in the here and now.
Prayer: Lord, show me my gifts and how you want me to use them today.
Reflection for sharing: How am I hiding the light within me? What can I do today to let it shine?