This week, the word accompaniment popped into my head. It all started with a lesson in teaching my three-year-old the importance of making good choices. Long story short, he made a poor choice, which resulted in consequences that he did not like, even though he was aware what the consequences would be at the time he made his choice. I spent considerable time explaining the choice to him, reminding him that this was the choice he made, and not-so-subtly letting him know he really should listen to his father, who wants what is best for him. He is smart, and to his credit, he seemed to understand. But, none of that made it better. He still was crying and explaining to me that he did not like the choice he made. It was then that I did all I could do. I picked him up and hugged him.
My three-year-old is not too affectionate. Usually an attempt at a hug is met with a knee in the gut and forearm shiver to the throat. However, this time, he clasped his arms around my back and held on, as if for dear life. Even so, I expected the hug to be short-lived, but five minutes later, he still had his head on my shoulder and arms around my back. It was then that the word “accompaniment” occurred to me.
I’m not a perfect father, although I do my best. However, in attempting to be a good father, I thought of the perfect Father that we all have. My attempt at teaching my son seemed to follow a familiar pattern. Present two options, one that will be good for the child and one that won’t be and do everything you can to explain to the child why he should choose the good option. Then, when he chooses the bad option, explain to him that it comes with the consequences that he knew about at the time he chose it. Then, when he still cries, refuses to accept his consequence that he chose, and asks for you to take it away, what do you do? On the one hand, you know taking it away would not be what is best for his long-term growth, development, or behavior as it would skew his understanding of justice and make him think he could do whatever he wants without consequences. On the other hand, your heart is breaking as your child cries to you and you know you can do something to make it stop.
Is this not the story of mankind with sin? On the one hand, our Heavenly Father is just, and when we break our relationship with Him through sin, something must be done to repair that relationship and right that wrong. On the other hand, our Heavenly Father is merciful, and His heart breaks in ways beyond our comprehension each time any of His children experience pain, fear, or grief. Being God, He had countless ways to remedy this situation. The path He chose was accompaniment.
As my son calmed down, being held in my arms, I reflected on the power of that accompaniment. The Father sent His only begotten Son to accompany us and be our human brother. More than anything else in the Gospels, Jesus said, “Be not afraid.” He reassures us by telling us, “He is with us,” and asks us to follow him. God, the creator of all things in the universe, became a person so that He could accompany us as a person. If this is the path toward a full relationship with Himself that God chose for us, then I feel fairly certain that accompaniment is something we all need.
Looking at our current environment, I think we see that need more than ever. With the pandemic, so many of us have lost that everyday accompaniment we provide for and receive from each other. My heart breaks at the thought of people suffering in hospitals without the accompaniment of their families. How many friends have been forced to alter or cancel their ways of accompanying each other? Even churches have been forced to close and then drastically change the structure of their gatherings if they have been able to reopen at all.
And yet, the cry for accompaniment is stronger than ever. We see it in the streets and on social media from our brothers and sisters who are protesting and crying out for social justice. We see it from so many people suffering from the consequences of this pandemic. We need accompaniment, and the physical accompaniment that we so crave is something that needs to be restricted, limited, altered, or put on hold in order to care for the unforeseen future.
If, like me, you find yourself feeling the hurt of everything that is happening around us, take comfort in knowing that even if you are completely isolated from every person physically, God promised He will accompany you always. Jesus’ parting words in the Book of Matthew are, “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Mt. 28:20) Jesus ascended to Heaven, but He never stopped accompanying us. He is with us in our hearts, He sent the Holy Spirit to dwell inside us, and He accompanies us in the Eucharist. He has promised He will never leave us, and since that is true, we will never be without accompaniment. Especially now, we need to be conscious of that so that we can hear God’s whisper in our hearts of how we can be the brothers and sisters this changing world needs.
This is a beautiful post, Will.