Friendships between human persons, says Father Cassilly, “we readily understand, and we have all experienced them in varying degrees of intensity and permanency.” But he asks: “Does it occur to us that there is such a thing on earth as divine friendship? Often indeed we have heard that we are friends of God, but does the phrase convey any definite, clear meaning, or is it to us a mere conventional expression, another way of saying that we are in the state of grace, or that we are free from mortal sin?”
He answers: “Inspired writers do not choose their words at random. From Holy Writ, its assertions and phraseology, the theologians draw a great part of the dogmas of revelation. . . . In many places Scripture tells us that God is the friend of the just man. . . . We are informed that they who use wisdom ‘become the friends of God,’ or according to a closer rendering of the Latin text, ‘become sharers in the friendship of God’ (Wis 7:14). Abraham in both the Old and New Testaments is called the ‘friend of God.’ St. John in his touching account of the Last Supper records Christ’s memorable words: ‘I will not now call you servants, for the servant knoweth not what his Lord doth. But I have called you friends, because all things whatsoever I have heard of My Father, I have made known to you.’ (Jn 15:15) Thus we have the term ‘friend of God’ applied repeatedly and insistently to those who were pleasing to Him.”
“The general rule for the interpretation of Scripture is, that the direct and obvious sense of the words is to be taken, unless there be good reason in the context or in the nature of the matter treated to read a tropical meaning into them. In the texts cited no hint is given for suspecting any other than a literal meaning of friendship; nor does any sufficient reason appear for doubting the possibility of God’s being a real and true friend to us.”
“The Council of Trent in its decree concerning the nature of justification takes this view of divine friendship, for without qualification it says, ‘By justification man from unjust becomes just, and from an enemy a friend’ (Session 6, Chap. 7); and again, ‘having, therefore, been thus justified and made the friends of God and members of his Household’ (Session 6, Chap. 10). God, then, is a real friend of the just, with all that a true, genuine friendship implies. To doubt it were to doubt revelation itself.”
Quotations from Francis Cassilly, A Story of Love, 2d ed. (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1917).