Stay with me

When I put two-year-old Harvey to bed, he usually wants me to stay as long as possible. He’d like a story or a drink or an extra kiss and cuddle.

On Good Friday this year, the theme of our homily at Mass was “stay with me”. The priest pointed out that that was Jesus’ theme at the Last Supper and into the Holy Thursday evening, as well as Peter’s failing on Good Friday.

At times, our society doesn’t encourage us to “stay with” others. It is easy to put our needs first, before our spouses, children and parents. There are times when “staying” with others is embarrassing, difficult, or unrewarding. These might be the times when our “Harvey monster”, as our family affectionately refers to him, throws a magnificent wobbly for the benefit of fellow parishioners or patrons of our local supermarket. Or years ago when my intoxicated twenty-something brother did a nudie run at a crowded footy match in our home town.

Most of us could find embarrassing incidents to share, but the hardest times are when we can’t. Sometimes the issue isn’t ours, or it’s so ongoing that we hesitate to continue burdening others with it, or we don’t want to undermine our loved ones or our family reputation by letting people know what’s really going on. We have to “stay with” others when there seems to be no-one to stay with us.

These are the times when we really do take up our cross to follow Jesus. He knew what it was to carry the burden of knowledge that couldn’t be imparted, to feel deserted and betrayed by his friends, and to sacrifice everything for those he loved.

In the long run, the rewards of staying with others are much greater than the alternative. St Peter denied his relationship with Jesus, but “wept bitterly” when he realised that he had sacrificed his personal integrity instead.

Staying with people requires us to accept them and recognise that there is something of God in all of us that deserves respect and compassion. If we truly wish to emulate Jesus, we will stay with others like he stays with us. And if Harvey wants an extra cuddle before bed, then I will give him one!