Choosing Friends

Paul Scofield as Sir Thomas More in "A Man for All Seasons"

Tomorrow we venerate the memory of one of the great heroes of our age! Here is a homily…

“Beware false prophets,” says the Lord.

The Lord warns all of us whose ears are open. In one way or another, that means everyone. Every human being, in a sense, is a ‘ravenous wolf.’ Our minds crave knowledge like wolves’ stomachs crave fleshmeat.

Probably all of our respective parents gave us the same advice: Choose your friends carefully, because you will inevitably become like them.

To live, we must reckon reality according to what we know. Amoebas survive physically by allowing nutrients in through their permeable cell walls. We survive intellectually and spiritually by absorbing ideas into our permeable minds.

So the choice we must make is not whether or not to have teachers. The choice is who our teachers ought to be. Our minds gape open spontaneously. To whom shall we draw close, so that the maw will be filled with truth, rather than nonsense?

Perhaps contemplating this question will give us some insight into the heroism of the popular saint whose memory we venerate. Sir Thomas More wrote brilliant books in defense of the Christian faith and the good order of English society. But that is not what made him a saint. He spoke mellifluously and commandingly. But that is not what made him a saint, either.

Thomas More had to make an unusually stark choice about his friends. Maybe he could even hear the voice of his own mother lecturing him: “Now, Thomas! Choose your friends wisely, son. That Henry is alright. He is charming. And, after all, he is the anointed king. Everyone else is running after him.

“But if he is going to make you choose—between himself and the Successor of Peter and Vicar of Christ…Well, you know whose side you need to be on then!”

Sometimes the gospels seem to present a strict and exclusive Christ. But, in practice, the Lord has actually granted us enormous leeway. The world extends around us with enchanting complexity, and our heavenly Master has filled it with worthy companions for our minds. In every corner of the earth, we can find good friends from whom we can learn wholesome truths.

The Lord simply demands that we always exercise judgment according to one almighty criterion. Can I spend time with this person–and at the same time remain close to the one associate in this world I absolutely must have?

I will gladly make friends with anyone on earth, provided that I can, at the same time, remain associated with the Pope. If you are going to make me choose between you and the Pope, get out of my face.

One thought on “Choosing Friends

  1. Fr. Mark,

    Of course, the problem is that Ol’ Took jes’ don’ work that way.

    He boxes us in with a series of smaller decisions, each of which is intended — by Took — to slide us closer to him and further from the Father. When the day of real decision comes, it’s already too late. We’ve already slip-slided away.

    All the more reason to watch the little decisions, and to keep them true to His principles. That way, when the moment of truth comes, we will have already practiced the necessary “yes and no” skills enough to instinctively go the right way, without hesistation, without agony. The decision will already be formed in our very being. It sort of bears out your Momma Thomas More notion.



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