The Lazarus Problem

On September 29th, we celebrated Sunday 26, in Ordinary Time –Year C

The Gospel parable about the poor Lazarus should have captured our attention!

In the words of Patrick M. O’Brien, the President and CEO of FAITH Catholic, the Lazarus situation is “a scene that is repeated far too often in far too many places. Usually it occurs near a major intersection or at the end of a freeway off-ramp: an individual, dressed in worn clothing, holding a sign written on cardboard. Sometimes the signs indicate that the person is out of work. Other times, the signs may indicate that they are homeless. Some of the individuals look like they may be veterans down on their luck, but all of them look like they are in need. Dozens of vehicles stream by; few, if any, stop for a moment, roll down a window, and hand a few bills or some change to the person in need”.

 A man holding a sign "Seeking human kindness"

Unfortunately, many of us may, too often, be one of those drivers who keep eyes focused straight ahead, doing everything we can to not make eye contact with the person in need. Apparently, we think that if we somehow don’t see or notice the individual, we don’t have to respond to their need.


The Lazarus situation challenges us in a very fundamental way. The problem with the rich man is not so much that he did something wrong. The problem is that he did nothing at all. One can imagine the rich man walking out his front gate each day, carefully stepping over Lazarus, intently trying not to notice his need, and trying to avoid doing anything to alleviate his suffering. All it would have taken was a little food, a little bit of compassion, some clean clothing, a decent coat and warm hat. Very practical things and perhaps things that the rich man had in abundance and could have easily shared with someone in need – but, he didn’t.

 The Rich Man and Lazarus (Girolamo da Ponte)

When someone is in need, we may not be able to solve all their problems, but we can often do little things with great care to ease their sadness and suffering. All that is needed is little food; some clean, used clothes; a bottle of water and a cereal bar; a gift card to a fast-food restaurant; a listening ear and a prayerful heart. The willingness to give these little bits of ourselves can ease the burdens of another.


Bottom line, we are all dependent upon one another, and we are all dependent upon God. We are ALL people in need. So, we can share with those around us.

Peace be with you!



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