Today is the Feast day of St. Teresa of Avila or Teresa of Jesus as she was known in religious life. St. Teresa of Jesus wrote, “If Christ Jesus dwells in a man as his friend and noble leader, that man can endure all things, for Christ helps and strengthens us and never abandons us. He is a true friend….Unlike our friends in the world, he will never abandon us when we are troubled or distressed.” Teresa of Jesus taught us about true friendship with Jesus. God is calling all of us to an intimate relationship with him through his Son Jesus. The Eternal Word, Jesus, the Son of God, became flesh so that we might draw near to God and embrace him as a true friend. “I have called you friends…” (Jn 15,15b), Jesus says to his apostles.
True friendship only develops by taking time to be with our friend. Teresa of Avila was a friend of Jesus because she spent many hours in his presence getting to know him. Taking time to be with our friend Jesus is prayer. Prayer is spending time in friendship with God through Jesus and Mary.
In Luke’s gospel (Lk 11: 42-46), Jesus criticizes the Pharisees and the scribes and scholars of the law because they think about many religious things but they “pay no attention to judgment and to love for God.” A true friend would certainly pay attention to how our behavior affects our friendship and how we can grow in love with our friend. Jesus also criticizes them for creating heavy burdens for their friends to carry without helping them to bear their burdens. A true friend helps his friend bear the burdens of life and accompanies him through his trials.
Friendship with God is a tremendous grace that we need to pursue in our spiritual lives. St. Teresa of Jesus shows us an example of how an intimate friendship with Jesus can enrich our lives and bring us great joy. In her writings she often spoke of her friendship with Jesus. Her friendship with our Lord was not lacking in humor. She is known to have said to the Lord during a particularly difficult time of trial, “Lord, if this is how you treat your friends, it is no wonder that you have so few of them.”
We can learn from Teresa of Avila to be a true friend of Jesus and to grow in our love for him through prayer and through our devoted service to him. Certainly, to grow in our friendship with our Lord we need to pay attention to “love for God” and foster that love through an intimate relationship that offers acts of love often through the day.