Giving is good for the soul

“ONCE our wealth reaches a certain point we need to begin to give some of it away—not because others need it but because our own health and happiness will begin to deteriorate if we hoard all of those possessions to ourselves.” — Fr. Ron Rolheiser, In Exile, Center for Liturgy, St. Louis University

This quote from Fr. Ron Rolheiser brings light to our Gospel reflection this Sunday on the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. The story is that while a rich man dines sumptuously each day in his mansion, dressed in purple garments and fine linens, his poor neighbor, Lazarus, sits at the gate of his residence, languishing in hunger and suffering from the pain of skin sores.  The miserable fate of Lazarus does not move his heart with compassion; he remains complacent.  A twist of fate happens after both died.  The rich man perishes in the netherworld while Lazarus sits at the bosom of Abraham, enjoying eternal bliss in heaven.

The parable serves as a warning to all of us: We cannot remain complacent about seeing the needs of the poor people around us. Otherwise, we will suffer the painful consequence of not being welcomed in the Kingdom of God in the next life.  Matthew 25: 42-46 reminds us of this consequence: “For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me… Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me. And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Fr. Ron Rolheiser’s insights, however, point that the terrible consequences of our greediness and disregard for the needs of poor occur even in our present earthly life. These selfish attitudes and behaviors alienate us from people, rob us of true happiness, and disintegrate our spirits and souls. True joy happens in our lives only when we give some of our riches away to the needy, whether these treasures are money, time, or talents.

Very often we hear of rich people who do not have genuine friends who care for them. Their lives are empty and dull, devoid of meaning and fulfillment; their happiness entails fleeting moments of prestige and recognition; and their sadness is hidden behind glamorous clothes and well-painted faces.

Indeed, money cannot buy all the happiness we want. It’s the sharing and giving of ourselves that would give us joy and fulfillment. It’s our deep sense of care and generous love that would bring purpose to our lives.

Hence, we give because we have a need to give. Giving is good for our emotional and spiritual health and defines us as human beings. Giving is good for our souls.

Fr. Ron Rolheiser further explains: “The poor do need us, but we also need them. They are, as Jesus puts it so clearly when he tells us we will be judged by how we gave to the poor, our passports to heaven. And they are also our passports to health. Our health depends on upon sharing our riches.”

May we never lose sight of this great wisdom that Jesus, our Lord, exemplified in his life and ministry! As the Prayer of St. Francis says, it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, it is in dying so that we are born to eternal life!

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From a Filipino immigrant family, Reverend Rodel G. Balagtas was ordained to the priesthood from St. John’s Seminary in 1991. He served as Associate Pastor at St. Augustine, Culver City (1991-1993); St. Martha, Valinda (1993-1999); and St. Joseph the Worker, Canoga Park (1999-2001). In 2001, he served as Administrator Pro Tem of St. John Neumann in Santa Maria, CA, until his appointment as pastor of ImmAaculate Heart of Mary, Los Angeles, in 2002, which lasted 12 years. His term as Associate Director of Pastoral Field Education at St. John’s Seminary began in July 2014.

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