Lent calls us to ‘the side of another’

The Greek word parakletos, often translated as “advocate,” “counselor” or “comforter,” is literally “one called to the side of another.” It is the word Jesus uses at the Last Supper when he tells his disciples, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always …  I will not leave you orphans.” (John 1416-18)

This idea of “one called to the side of another” is a spiritual discipline and Lent is the perfect time to work on that discipline, according to Gretchen E. Ziegenhals, managing director of Leadership Education at Duke Divinity.

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Bringing comfort to others “is not as warm and cozy as it sounds,” Ziegenhals writes on the Faith and Leadership website of Duke Divinity School.

‘Comforters surrender their own needs as they are called to the side of another.’

“Scripture shows us many examples of those ‘called to the side of another,’ ” Ziegenhals writes. “To walk alongside another is to choose a difficult venture. Ruth sacrifices her chances of finding another husband when she heeds the call to walk alongside Naomi. The disciples give up their livelihoods as they drop everything to follow Jesus. Priscilla and Aquila, faithful co-workers of Paul, are commended for risking their lives to work alongside him. These comforters surrender their own needs as they are called to the side of another.”

Ziegenhals also reminds us that being a comforter is not as passive as it may sound, because it “is less about what we say and more about how we listen.”

“Comforters must listen not only to tears but also to anger, confusion and despair in a way that is nonjudgmental, steady and open. This is a much harder kind of listening,” she says.

“The sympathy of a comforter must be shaped by wise perspective and a broader vision,” she concludes. “That broader vision can illuminate hope, a future when all appears to be lost.”

Are you called to the side of another? That is something to explore at

“An Evening of Lenten Prayer”
March 4, Wednesday 6:30-8:30 p.m.

This is an evening of contemplative prayer that will feature a guided mediation based on the Stations of the Cross. Fr. Ron Will CPPS will lead the evening.

The image above is “Whetstone Stray” by Martin Addison and licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0