Persons, places and things: Growing in friendship with Jesus


By Barb Arland-Fye


In chapter 5 of his book “The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything,” Father James Martin, SJ, describes all of us as “newcomers to prayer, because our relationship with God changes over time and is constantly being renewed.” Father Martin had my attention with that statement. Then he shared his re-introduction to prayer as a 26-year-old college graduate making an eight-day silent retreat, which he describes with humor and insight. One of his tasks was to spend time thinking about who God is.

His first efforts were diligent, however his spiritual guide responded, “But why don’t you think about who Jesus is for you. In your life.” The future priest returned to his reflection on God and eventually the word “friend” popped into his head. “Jesus was a friend. That was something that I had never thought of before.”

Father Martin thought about what it would be like to have Jesus as a friend who would be happy to listen to him, celebrate with him over his successes and be sad with him over his disappointments. “He would want the best for me. And he would want to spend time with me and hear about my life.” Father Martin imagined what it would be like for the apostles to hang around with Jesus.


His reflection caused me to reflect on my relationship with Jesus. I have prayed my entire life but never considered Jesus to be a friend in the sense of the personal friendships I treasure in my life. Honestly, a perceived physical and spiritual distance may have limited my ability to form a close friendship with Jesus. However, I do experience an intimate relationship with Jesus when I receive the Eucharist. That experience solidifies our relationship in a way that I can’t quite articulate or name.

As I continue to reflect on my relationship with Jesus and my personal and communal prayer life that help shape our relationship, Jesus may be providing some hints. The latest surfaced while preparing for my lector duties for the 5th Sunday of Lent. Our parish followed the B cycle, so the first reading was from Jeremiah (32:31-34):

“… But this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord.

I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they have need to teach their friends and relatives how to know God.

All, from least to greatest, shall know me, says the Lord …”

Reading these verses brought to mind Father Martin’s reflection on friendship with Jesus and evoked a sense of tenderness for me. These verses speak to me of a deep, abiding love and the essential elements of a loving, eternal friendship. The commentary in my “Workbook for Lectors, Gospel Readers, and Proclaimers of the Word” observes: “By establishing this new covenant, God will reforge the intimate relationship with the people that was ruptured by their disobedience to the prior instruction. And God rearticulates the nature of that relationship, which corresponds to the old covenant: ‘I will be their God, and they shall be my people’…”

Equally profound to me is this insight from the commentary: “Recognizing God’s profound love for the chosen people cannot negate God’s justice; God’s forgiveness of the people entails a cost on God’s part.” The love of God fills me.

I worried that my Lenten journey this year had not been bearing fruit but God has led me, through a series of gentle hints, to explore the wonders of our relationship.

(Contact Editor Barb Arland-Fye at

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