The decade of the sixties was a contentious time. Ideological polarization was so great that you could almost bump into it. The Vietnam war, the Second Vatican Council, the Delano grape strike. These and other similar issues had different levels of interpretation. And the list could go on….
During that time, one of the more effective ways of expressing an opinion was by way of the “banner.” You know, place a pithy comment on a decorated sign which can be carried or posted on a wall.
One “banner” that made a deep impression on me, and showed promise at ameliorating the current polarization was: FRIENDSHIP DOUBLES JOY AND DIVIDES GRIEF. “Friendship” seemed to have that power of doubling your joy and sharing your grief. There was much of both during that period. But in order to have an effective friendship, it was necessary that the friendship contain two items: Dialogue and Mutual Service.
Why dialogue? Well, one has only to look at the word itself to get an idea. The word “dialogue” comes from the Greek which means “conversation between two.” And true dialogue is possible only when there is “listening” and “speaking.” Of the two procedures, “listening” is the more important. Why?
Because when one listens, one begins to understand the context and background of the other person’s remarks. If there is only speaking, then you have nothing more than monologue. It becomes a session of one trying to outshout the other.
Why mutual service? Because when one understands the context and background of the other, there is often the willingness to be of help, such as doubling joy and dividing grief.
In the Gospel for the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Mark 10:2-12), we note that one of the most common forms of friendship is marriage. The Pharisees (as is often the case) were testing Jesus. What did he think about divorce? Moses gave some laws that made divorce rather easy to obtain. But Jesus had other plans. His idea was not to destroy the law, but to fulfill it. (Matthew 5:17)
His way of “fulfillment” was to affirm the unity and permanency of marriage (Mark 10: 6-9). The unity and permanency of marriage would be possible because of the friendship that existed between husband and wife. Within the friendship there would be dialogue and mutual service.
What can we learn from the Gospel reading? Actually, many things. But I would like to suggest one. Namely, that we have to remember the importance of friendship. True friendship depends on dialogue and mutual service. Some people have the vocation of marriage. Others do not. But all of us, without exception, need friends. We can make this a special prayer–that the Lord help us to find a good friend.
An interesting corollary to this would be to remember to have Jesus as a friend. The same realities of dialogue (in-depth prayer) and mutual service (take seriously Jesus’ example of how he treated others) would apply.
It seems to me that a greater awareness of our genuine friendship with Jesus and with the spouse (or other person) can actually help us double our joy and divide our grief. In such friendships we no longer have to worry about dealing with ideological polarities as two people, but as one–because we have a friend.