“I assure you, whatever you did to the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to Me.”  Matthew 25:40

Last year over 7,500 people slept rough on the streets of London. Think about that for a moment. We see so many statistics these days that it’s sometimes easy to forget that behind the numbers are real people, living a life with hopes, fears and aspirations.

Last Saturday we welcomed 15 homeless men and women to our parish. Thanks to the amazing generosity and compassion of all those parishioners who helped, beds were prepared, a meal was made and they were given a safe place for the night before giving them a warm breakfast early next morning. While chatting with some of these men and women I noticed that many had stable jobs and a home not so long ago but because of a sudden hike in rent fees or loss of employment, found themselves very quickly sleeping rough. The one thing they all had in common was that, at the moment they were made homeless they didn’t have any support system to turn to. Many didn’t have family to reach out to for various reasons and also, they were not part of a Church community or other kind of social network. I would hope nobody from our parish would have to follow the same path and that our church community could provide the support and contacts anyone would need to avoid being pushed out onto the streets.

      This is a photo of our hall prepared for our visitors!

Pope Francis has made a point of calling on society to focus on the needs of the poorest and most marginalised and his words remind us that a society without love is not a society at all. The foundation of all we do, whether inspired by faith or human concern, must be based on the human desire to love each other. This builds a culture of life, respecting men and women as they are and through the transforming power of love, changes lives.

THE HOMELESS JESUS - an analysis

This image provides the starkness between reality and divinity. The observer views the contours of what seems to be a body wrapped in a shroud. The sullen cloth covers the head but not the feet, the shroud, is a core signifier. There is a duplicity in the sculptured figure. Is this person, sleeping or dead? The winding sheet or grave clothes, provide the impression and remnants of a life once lived. Each fold a reminder of the crease and tucks of this world. The imperfections of humanity. However, there is hope… The feet expose the stigmata, the prime indication of one of Jesus’ holy wounds and this provides a deeper spiritual bound explanation…

The bench in some ways becomes the tomb of Jesus, as it presents a place where it is believed that Jesus was temporarily’ entombed. This sense of temporality echoes homelessness; the moving between temporary shelters, temporary solace and sanctuary. Nonetheless, what appears as an untimely death of a homeless person, is not the end. The stigmata represents eternity and salvation – a clear message “eventually we shall all be in eternity”: For those who suffer the indignities of homelessness and it’s depravity will eventually have everlasting life. The Beatitudes testify this point.

In contrast, the sculpture also speaks to those who “have”, the wealthy, the comfortable, and even the relatively poor. It symbolises the opportunity for charity and for self-reflection. The horizontal position depicts a sense of desolation, isolation and helplessness. It is a homage to vulnerability. Hence the motif stipulates that we are accountable, we are all obliged. The image can perhaps be perceived as an effigy communicating the words of our Lord Jesus. It was Jesus, who states that we are one body in Christ. Notice no two folds in this  sculptured garment are alike. However, the differences are unified. In this sense, everyone, rich, poor, every colour or creed, every age has a legitimate role to play in that body.

Thus, ultimately, the sculpture depicts that we must help each other grow together into the body Christ envisioned, from the beginning of time. Homeless Jesus must continue to reign in our hearts and mind. Divinity is reality.

Written by a St Antony Parishioner

The Homeless Jesus can be seen at the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Farm Street, London