Did Jesus have favorites? My Lutheran pastor posed this question last Sunday. I have been reading a collection of essays by Thomas Merton (a Trappist monk) and last night I came across this:
"When all this has been said, the truth remains that our destiny is to love one another as Christ has loved us. Jesus had very few close friends when He was on earth, and yet He loved and loves all men and is, to every soul born into the world, that soul’s most intimate friend. The lives of all the men we meet and know are woven into our own destiny, together with the lives we shall never know on earth. But certain ones, very few, are our close friends. Because we have more in common with them, we are able to love them with a special selfless perfection, since we have more to share. They are inseparable from our own destiny, and therefore, our love for them is especially holy: it is a manifestation of God in our lives."
I thought about the few people in my life who I love terribly. I counted 11, including 4 people in my immediate family. I guess I always had a vague unease bordering on guilt that I did not love more people in this way, which had the effect of making me suppress my affections for these few. I never considered the idea that my love for these few might be a special gift from God, even holy. But when I stopped to consider each of these relationships one by one, I think it is true. They are not infatuations. Not one of these people have I known less than three years – I know them all well enough to know their flaws. Most are men, but not all. Most are wiser than me, but not all. What they all seem to have in common is that I see something of Christ in them that I do not see in myself - and one is not even a Christian! In another part, Merton has this to say:
"Love not only prefers the good of another to my own, but it does not even compare the two. It has only one good – that of the beloved, which is, at the same time, my own. Love shares the good with another, not by dividing it with him, but by identifying itself with him so that his goodness becomes my own. The same good is enjoyed in its wholeness by two in one spirit, not halved and shared by two souls."
I am amazed to find that these relationships really do fit this description, so I can only conclude that they are, indeed, manifestations of God. I firmly resolve to enjoy them more.