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Whose company?

Whose company?

Psalm One is a little beatitude of its own, and begins,

Happy indeed is the man who follows not the counsel of the wicked; nor lingers in the way of sinners nor sits in the company of scorners, but whose delight is the law of the Lord and who ponders his law day and night.

In the psalmist’s time, the company you kept would have exerted the biggest external influence on you.  If you could read, you’d be steeped in scripture.  If, as was more likely, you couldn’t read, you’d be formed by your parents and wider family, your priests and your friends.

It was salutary, therefore, to keep a check on just whose company you kept and make sure you didn’t walk, stand or sit in company that was going to contaminate your soul. Consider the contrast with our society.

We often can’t choose the company we keep.  From day to day, we spend much of our time with colleagues or clients; circumstances throw us together with others who may not be of our choosing.  Today, the ‘company’ we keep includes the vast realm of communications media which holds such a dominant position in 21st Century Britain.

We read widely – books spiritual and temporal, magazines, newspapers, Internet.  We watch TV and films, listen to radio and music in so many different places and through so many gadgets, that our ancestors would be truly staggered (and possibly deafened). It is then, I suggest, these other influences on our lives that we might like to examine in the light of the first few verses of Psalm One, not least of all because we tend to have more control over what we read, watch and listen to than we do over what our colleagues discuss within earshot.

I remember a priest once saying that living a Christian life in our society is ‘like trying to keep clean whilst living in a dustbin’.  Yes, I know what he was meaning by that, but at the same time, we do have more control over our external influences than we perhaps realise. Lent begins a week from now.  It is a perfect opportunity to take a careful look at what we read, watch and listen to.  ‘The Counsel of the Wicked‘ could be a book title, couldn’t it?  ‘The Way of Sinners‘ wouldn’t look out of place in TV listings, nor ‘In The Company of Scorners‘ in radio listings.

In all honesty, wouldn’t our lives be purer without some of that?  ‘Happy the man who has placed his trust in the Lord’ is the response to our psalm this Sunday.  That’s a promise from God. He keeps his promises.

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