Blessing of the image of The Homeless Jesus
Christ Church Cathedral, 1st May 2015
Reflections of Archbishop Diarmuid Martin
Less than six months ago, the name of Jonathon Corrie was on all our nation’s news headlines, the morning after he died homeless on the streets of Dublin.
His death stung consciences. There was anger; there was a genuine mobilisation of resources; there was a commitment that this should never happen again. Much was done, amid an awareness that the challenge of homelessness in this city is a complex one that cannot be resolved overnight.
The problem is that when a challenge is complex and cannot be resolved overnight, it can easily end up as a challenge answered with plans and promises that are never fulfilled.
This image of The Homeless Jesus is a reminder to the entire community of this city – Catholics and Protestants, people of faith and people of none – that as long as there are people who cannot find a suitable roof over their head and families without a place where they can live with dignity, then none of us can roll over in our comfortable beds with an easy conscience. Conscience, public opinion and political commitment must be kept alert every day and never settle back into thinking we have done enough.
We have seen a genuine attempt to provide services to alleviate an emergency situation. But when families and children have to wait years in single hotel rooms, we have to ask is this emergency ever going to end? The possibility of a ramping up of house repossessions, the coming tourist season during which the hotels currently used to house the homeless will no longer be valuable, all indicate that in the coming months existing services will experience enormous strain.
For the Christian, the homeless are not just statistics; our belief recalls that the plight of the homeless is our plight. This image of The Homeless Jesus reminds us of the demands of belief in Jesus Christ. It challenges us, before we feel we can enter a Cathedral, if we have the right credentials to enter. Our reading spoke of what the factors are which give us the keys to enter eternal life. But what is striking about those factors is that they belong not to a future moment, but to our today.
This image of The Homeless Jesus is not the normal statue. It is a beautiful work which is not created to be looked at and admired; it is an image which should make us turn away from it. When we glance at it, our glance must be taken away from it instantly and be lead towards the many park benches, the many doorways, the many sheltered corners where Jesus lies homeless every day and every night: the homeless Jesus who is down from better days; the homeless Jesus the immigrant, the homeless Jesus with mental health problems, the homeless Jesus who is just a child; the homeless Jesus who is a parent frustrated by the tragic situation he or she cannot give a loved child the hope and the future which Jesus would want that child to have.