Have you ever felt lonely, left out, an outsider? What happened as a result? This was one of the topics of discussion at the Parish Renewal workshop last weekend. As each member of the group told their story of not feeling welcomed, I noticed a pattern: in each situation people hadn't taken the effort to go deeper with someone unfamiliar. In the story of blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52), the crowd tell him to be quiet when he called out to Jesus but Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” (Mark 10:49) Jesus took time to talk to the man and at the end of the story, Bartimaeus follows Jesus. Unfamiliar people do take effort. It takes effort to listen well. I noticed that I myself have the temptation to not bother pursuing a conversation when someone tells me their job and it's something I can't relate to. You have to stop, ask a lot of questions, you have to really concentrate hard on their answers, you have to ask clarifying questions and only then you might find common ground and a connection point. Again and again, Jesus stops and makes this effort with those that are lonely, left out and outsiders. As Christians how can we say we follow Jesus if we don't take on this same attitude? Will you sacrifice talking to someone familiar to get to know someone new? Will you suppress your desire to talk about yourself to listen to them properly? Will you humble yourself to give up control and let them lead the conversation? Without the help of the Holy Spirit it's all too easy to not make the effort. Pray with me this week that the Spirit will help you stop and make the effort with someone unfamiliar this week. You never know whether God will use your stopping and listening to lead another Bartimaeus towards following Jesus and receiving from him forgiveness unto eternal life.
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