A costly discipleship

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Eric Varden

Readings: Jeremiah 17:5-10; Luke 16:19-31

"A blessing on the man who puts his trust in the Lord, with the Lord for his hope." (Jeremiah 17:7)

In today's Gospel story, it appears that the rich man neither abused nor attacked the poor man who lived near him. He just ignored him and failed to see him. We may well ask ourselves what it was that prevented the rich man from seeing the poor man on his doorstep. Did he fear his comfortable lifestyle being disturbed?

Erik Varden, a Norwegian-born Cistercian who was abbot of a monastery in Leicestershire before becoming Bishop of Trondheim in Norway, has described how his life as a young academic was radically transformed by a chance encounter with a homeless man. One winter, after a night out with friends in Paris, he returned to his lodgings in an expensive part of the city only to find an obstacle in his path. A homeless man was asleep blocking his entrance. After an inner struggle Varden woke the man, spoke to him and offered to help find him a room for the night. As they walked together to find suitable accommodation for Emmanuel, Varden's new friend, the young academic knew his life was being totally changed by the encounter. He felt a mission to "breathe hope into our too often hopeless world".

What hinders us from stepping out of our comfort zones and engaging with people from different backgrounds and social contexts? Do we fear the challenges of being open to the strange but exciting mystery of other people's lives and struggles? Maybe this Lent we could aim to reach out to one or two people whose lives seem very different from our own.

Prayer
Heavenly Father, forgive us the fear that prevents us from opening ourselves to your presence in the people we encounter. Give us the courage to step out of our comfort zones. Open our eyes to your presence in the wounds and suffering of the people you place in our lives. Amen.

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