Lent is a time set aside for prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Why? Because this is a time of year when the Church recognizes we need to stress the importance of focusing on others. In our gospel, Jesus calls us to that reflection. Interestingly, in the Greek in which the gospel was initially written, the name given the rich man in the parable is Nineveh. Recall, it was Jonah who was sent to Nineveh to get them to repent. Nineveh was a wealthy city that was pagan, so this could be interpreted that the rich man in this gospel would have been understood to be someone who was not just wealthy but had also clearly turned away from God.
When the poor man, Lazarus, dies he is taken to the bosom of Abraham. Jews at the time understood the future state of blessedness to be either the Garden of Eden, the Throne of Glory, or the Bosom of Abraham. Jesus was telling those listening that Lazarus was taken to a special place close to God. That would have been so very counter to the beliefs of the Jews, to them, the poor were poor because they did something against God.
The rich man, on the other hand, would have been consider on the path to a blessed after-life. Jesus tells us the exact opposite. God wants all of us to reach eternity with Him. How we treat others in this life matters. It is in no way sinful to be rich – what matters is how we use the gifts, including wealth, to help others see the wonder of God and to work for the good of others.
Looking at life that way is pure joy. Scientific studies show us how random acts of kindness release dopamine in our brains, the chemical that brings a sense of euphoria. Science shows us that people who live with kindness as their mantra have 23% less cortisol in their system, cortisol is the hormone associated with stress. And quite frankly, it is just a way of living life that is more fun! So today, who can you help? Where can you volunteer your time? Go for it!
Smile at God today!