We’ve all heard the expression “fair-weather” friend – someone who only sticks around when it is fun or profitable. Someone who high-tails it away when things get tough.
A “fair-weather” friend, in reality, is no friend at all. If you’ve had people like that in your life, you know how painful that can be. And you probably try to avoid acting in ways that would prompt someone else to put that label on you.
The truth is that when you love someone, you stick with them in the difficult times as well as the easy times.
What is true for our relationship with others here is true for our relationship with Jesus. It is easy to be with Jesus when he is healing people, feeding them, having fun at wedding feasts or at the homes of his friends. But what about the other times?
Lent is our invitation to journey with Jesus no matter what. To be with him, not only when it is pleasant, but to be with him in the most difficult places. Kayla McClurg wrote this in a commentary on the passage in Luke’s Gospel where Jesus talks about giving up father and mother for his sake:
There comes a tipping point in any relationship that determines what kind it will be, whether it will be a simple acquaintance or a radical commitment. Will we stay as long as we enjoy ourselves, or will we have the courage to embrace whatever comes, to love even the parts we hate? It’s time to decide: Will we be [Jesus’] casual friend, or will we be closer-than-family, bonded more deeply than blood? We can hang out in the crowd, listen to his teachings, applaud his healings, or we can check the depths of our own commitment. We can count the cost, open our hands and hearts, and pick up our cross. Or not. The choice is ours.
I am at Christ the King Retreat Center in Buffalo, Minnesota this weekend, giving a lent retreat for men and women. My theme for the weekend is In the Desert with Jesus. And by that I mean more than desert in the narrow sense of Jesus’ actual days in the desert facing temptation (although the retreatants will pray with that this morning). But desert in the broader sense of place of testing, place of struggle, place of pain – place of darkness as well as light. And that means staying with Jesus all the way to the cross.
Are we going to be fair-weather friends, simple acquaintances, or will we make the radical commitment that involves sticking with Jesus no matter what that brings? That is what I am inviting the men and women I am directing this weekend to reflect on. it is what I invite us all to reflect on.