group - smallWritten by: Fr. Mike Simoes

“Friendship is one of the chief forms of love.”[1] Jesus tells His apostles that to be His friend you must love God and love your neighbor as yourself. Therefore, the link between friendship and love is made complete in what Jesus taught the apostles. Unfortunately, in the English language, there is only one word to express love. In Greek, there are four ways to express love which gives us a complete understanding of what it means for us to love. The first word to express love is Storge. This is the Greek word used to describe a love found in families. It is an affection that comes from blood relationships: parents for children and children for parents. The next three-forms of love can also describe how our relationship with Jesus can grow.

Eros is the greek word used to describe a sexual love, not only in the physical sense but also in the emotional sense. Eros love is a love that attracts. When we begin our relationship and friendship with Jesus, we are attracted to Him. Maybe we enter into our relationship with Jesus for the wrong reasons like a friendship of utility. For example, we enter into relationship with Jesus so that we can get something from Him: what can Jesus give me or what can I get from a relationship with Jesus. Maybe we enter into our relationship with Jesus for the right reasons asking the questions: how can I love Jesus or what can I do for Jesus. Either way, our relationship with Jesus begins with this attraction. Typically, Jesus is calling us and we respond to that call. We can only respond to this call in freedom and in eros love. Jesus will never force us into a friendship with Him.

Philia (think of Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love) is a close, warm, loving affection that is found typically amongst friends. It involves mutual giving and receiving. It allows us to be in friendship regardless of certain characteristics or other personality traits. Philia love goes beyond these things. In many friendships, there are disagreements but these are overcome with philia love. As we proceed in our relationship with Jesus our love for Him turns into this brotherly love. Jesus loves us regardless of our faults and He begins to open our hearts to Him more and more. Moreover, He begins to infuse our mind and intellect with the mysteries of the Church and of the Gospel.

Agape is the Greek word that is used to describe a self-sacrificing love. It is the Christian form of love, and it is not limited to family or friends but can be used for enemies as well. This is the type of love Christ taught us to have for one another. This is the highest form of love. Our love for Jesus will turn to this love only when we are ready to die to self and live the life of Christ. We see this type of love in all the saints, the martyrs and the holy men and women of God.

A good example that we can use to explain this growth in a friendship with Jesus is with the apostle Peter. We all should remember the gospel when Jesus asks Peter three times, do you love me? Again, the English translation lacks in substance. In the Greek, the first two times Jesus asks do you agape me? (Do you love me with a self-sacrificing love?) Peter was not able to respond to that. Finally Jesus asks do you phila me? (Do you love me with a brotherly love?) And Peter is upset by this and said yes. Later in Peter’s life, he would give his life as a martyr for the Church in Rome by being crucified upside down. He embodied that self-sacrificing love that Jesus had initially asked him.

During this time of Advent, let us renew our friendship with Christ. We have this time to reflect about Christ coming in His glory, but also reflect and allow Christ to be born in our hearts at Christmas. Let us allow ourselves in this season to reflect on where we are in our relationship with God and try, through penance, to bring ourselves back into friendship with God and renounce sin and those obstacles that prevent us from loving God as we should.


[1] Apostoli, When God asks for an Undivided Heart,  157

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