The Old Testament character that we have chosen to meditate upon this month is Jonathan. Introduced in the First Book of Samuel, Jonathan is the son of the king Saul and the devoted friend of David. It is Jonathan’s selfless, uninterested love for David that is so striking. Having just met the young shepherd boy David at his victory over the giant Goliath, Jonathan “became as fond of David as if his life depended on him; he loved him as he loved himself.”
(1 Sam 18:1) Jonathan immediately divested himself of his mantle and military garb, that symbolized his own dignity and rank as the king’s son and heir to the throne, and gave them to his friend. Saul becomes madly jealous of David who was loved by all the people and successful in battle and while the latter plays the harp, the king attempts to nail him to the wall with his spear. Unsuccessful, Saul makes public his desire to kill young David. At this point only Jonathan intervenes pleading with his father to save his friend’s life. Saul tries every tactic to incite jealously in Jonathan, he who would in fact have most reason to be invidious of David being the next in line to the throne. Jonathan however resists and does not succumb to jealously despite his fathers terrible insults and threats to his own life for having defended that of David’s. Humiliating himself and exalting his friend, Jonathan prophesied: “You shall be king of Israel and I shall be second to you.” (1 Sam 23:17)
Jonathan prefigures Jesus with his selfless love that was willing to sacrifice not only his father’s affection and his future as king, but also his own life for David. Jesus affirmed “there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (Jn 15:13) and He confirmed his words with his action of freely giving his life for us on the Cross. The coming of Jesus as a man revealed to us how God Himself is the Holy Trinity and therefore made of relationships, of reciprocal love. God, who so desired to share the His essence of love with humanity, sent His Son to reveal and guide us into the Trinitarian communion. Jesus unveiled the mystery of love at the heart of the Trinity by his words and example. Jesus Himself is our model as he encourages us to “love one another as I have loved you.” (Jn 15:12) He desires not only our friendship with himself, but also with one another as a means of evangelization. The Second Vatican Council says that “friendship is an unrenouncable modality of apostolate.” (CD 13, PO 18) He will show himself friend to our fellowmen through our love for them. Through our love others can perceive its source and consequentially be led to a deeper knowledge and friendship with God. It is our love that relays Jesus’ message: “you are my friends.” (Jn 15:15)
Friendship is based on unselfish love that seeks what is good for the other. The two, in order to be friends, must share the same ideal as the good of the other. For us Christians the ultimate good is to grow in an intimate union with the Lord. Friends love one another not for what they can get out of the relationship, but solely for the good of the other. As a result of the unselfish love shown for the other, they enjoy the reciprocity of being loved in return. The source of all love and friendship is God Himself and it is dwelling in His love, that is having an intimate friendship with Him, that we can love our neighbor. Our friendships between one another can only be as true and profound as is our friendship with God. Friendship is a virtue and therefore requires effort and practice. R. Voillaume (the French founder of the Little Brothers of Jesus) says that “the journey of friendship is humble and daily, it is long and requires patience.” Opportunities to build friendship through which we can manifest God’s love are presented to us a hundred times a day. We are called to love especially those God has put close to us: our family members, colleagues at work, neighbors, etc. In order to concretely build friendships we can work on: dedicating of time and attention to the other, listening to the other without presuming to already know what he\she thinks, keeping open the lines of communication despite difficulties of understanding one another and striving to get to know the other and to see God’s beauty present in him\her.
Meditating on the example of friendship between Jonathan and David, let us try to imitate their reciprocal affection and esteem in our own relationships. It’s important to remember that the joy of the reciprocity, being loved in return, comes when we are not egoistically searching for it. It is when, following Jesus’ example and strengthened by his grace, we manage to lay down our life for our friends that we will then find it.
The Good News I Want to Announce Is…
Recognize God’s gift of an already or existing friendship in your life and thank Him for the opportunity to know Him more in His essence of love. Dedicate time to cultivating this friendship, knowing that it is God’s love that will manifest itself through your attention, listening, patience, and words of esteem and affection.