I guess most of us know how a long and tedious wait or a monotonous journey can be shortened by good company. Sometimes that good company can be hard to find. Now whilst I have often discussed the importance of sacred silence and the ability to spend time on one’s own, I want to reflect a little today on the impact of the people in whose company we spend much of our time. From the outset can I say that this might sound a little simplistic and I appreciate there are different ways of categorising the company we keep, from attractive to unattractive, from enjoyable or challenging. I think we all know what it’s like to be in the company of someone who leaves us drained or a least a little tired, and hopefully we know the joy of being in the company of someone who makes us feel lighter, happier, whose company recharges our batteries. Today I would like to propose a variation on this way of viewing the company we keep and propose a different type of question. It might be framed like this: to what degree does this company feed or enliven my soul? Perhaps a more demanding correlation of this might be: Is there company I keep that actually leads me away from God, company that blocks my pilgrim path?
Many of us remember our parents, finding themselves not impressed with some of our friends, commenting, ‘Show me your company and I’ll tell you what you are’! Obviously the danger with all this is it could lead us to being harsh and judgemental. I am not suggesting for a minute that we only spend time with people who are full of the joys of living. This approach would lead to the erosion of Christian charity. The reality is that sometimes people are demanding, and even difficult company because they have suffered. We as Christians should of course be doing our very best for those who are unwell, those who are having a hard time, those who need a listening ear. However sometimes we need to realise that we need to draw the line, we need to know when to move off, if only to take a break, from certain company.
If we are honest I think we instinctively know good company. We know company that gives us a lift, that builds us up, company that reminds us that life is good, that we are good. Perhaps this is a timely place to pose an important question. I wonder what type of company are we? If two or three of your friends were having a quick exchange about you, how would they describe you? Now I don’t mean you on a bad day, after all we all have them. No I mean more generally. What sort of a companion are you? Are you a good listener? Are you genuinely interested in the other? Do you offer words of encouragement? Are you able to gently challenge in a sensitive loving way? Do people leave you feeling even a little better than they were when they met you? Or are you hard work? Do you hardly pause for breath talking about yourself? Are you very harsh in your commentary on others, or on life generally? Are you a moaning Minnie, or for that matter a moaning Martin? Do you wind people up to fight? Do you egg them on?
I think if we examine company from a spiritual perspective it changes things a little. The focus becomes even more important. Perhaps it is now better to speak of Companions on the Journey. So, who are your Spiritual Companions? Who is it that is helping you inch your way towards God? Can you name someone who acts as a light on your pilgrim path? Now of course you have heard me speak about the wonderful companionship that the saints can provide. I personally enjoy the companionship of Jean Vianney, the Cure of Ars very much, and Martin de Porres and Declan of Ardmore. I would be really lost without Joseph who with Mary reared Jesus.
I cannot imagine what it would be like to try to plot my pilgrim path without the motherly wisdom, courage and care of Mary. I am further assisted by Merton, Chesterton, Nouwen and Lewis. I am often aware of the prayerful solidarity of my family members who have gone before me to meet the Lord. All this is very good but let’s face up to today’s question: Do we keep our other relationships separate from our relationship with Jesus? What would it be like to ‘Christianise’ our relationships? Even some of them! Even one of them? What would it be like to bring Jesus into one of our other relationships, even a little? Or is it a case of me and Jesus is a private affair? Do you honestly think that’s the way it’s meant to be?