Every time I hear the parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16, I wonder about the rich man allowing Lazarus to lay at his door—tolerating his presence. He did not order Lazarus to be removed, and perhaps was not intentionally cruel to him. As he allowed Lazarus to lay and eat anything that fell his way, did he feel somehow generous in his tolerance?
This Gospel parable challenges us: the sin of the rich man was accepting the condition of Lazarus—assuming it perfectly natural and inevitable that Lazarus could lay in pain and hunger while he enjoyed luxury. Indeed, the sin of the rich man was that he could look on his brother’s suffering and need and be content to tolerate it—having it incidental and irrelevant to the rich man’s life.
As I come into The Basilica Rectory weekday mornings, I see a man who sleeps outside on the steps that lead from the Rectory driveway to the west school parking lot. Sometimes he sleeps in the driveway. Sometimes on the curb of 17th street, leaning on the highway wall. Most days, he is here—literally lying at our door. One day, as I was walking back into the office after lunch, he called me and asked if I was going to eat the food I was carrying. He was asking for the scraps of my food.
Scripture is not always so poignantly real—but do we see the “Lazarus” in our lives? In many manifestations, he is there every day. And every day we have a choice of how we respond to his presence—both individually and collectively. If we look, there are opportunities and challenges in this call to radical and bold compassionate action. It is so easy for us to think we are doing something kind—even as we fall so short.
The Basilica community has always been committed to responding to the needs of the most vulnerable among us. In formal and informal ways, we reach out to see our brother and sister suffering or in need, accompany them through their journey, serve them, and defend them.
For the man lying at our Basilica door—we have gotten to know him by name. Sought to find services through partner non-profits to support him. Provided food and drink, respectfully. Welcomed him, even as he experiences mental health struggles. We hope he knows he is not alone. Yet, it doesn’t feel enough.
Our faith calls us to deep and real solidarity with one another. We are called to care for our brothers and sisters, whoever they are and wherever they live. Regardless of national, racial, ethnic, economic, or ideological differences, we are one human family. We are called to embrace the reality of being interconnected—and to seek to embody this without resentment, indifference, domination, or exploitation.
This Gospel is a wake-up call to see the needs of our brothers and sisters and engage in bold compassionate action. Let us help one another to see and respond to the suffering and pain around us. What else would we expect of a Catholic community?