Homeless Jesus

Last Sunday, feast of Christ the King, the Gospel presented us with Christ hidden in the poor and most vulnerable; in strangers, prisoners, the sick and those in need of practical love and compassion. And since then, whenever I've opened the photo gallery on my phone I've been faced with the most recent ones I took, only a couple of days before that Gospel: photos of Homeless Jesus; Christ the King lying in disguise, his face shrouded and anonymous, recognisable only by the indelible wounds on his feet.

This sculpture can be found in major cities around the world. Mostly, it is outdoors, surrounded by the hustle and bustle of city life, as much a part of the scenery and ignored by many passers-by as the street homeless themselves are. This one, however, is indoors, in one of the side chapels of Farm Street Jesuit church in central London. In the hushed beauty of this sacred space, in an atmosphere of prayer, and watched over by a statue of his Mother, this sleeping figure is strangely peaceful and deeply moving. There is nothing incongruous about his presence here; rather, this is, in so many ways, the right place for him to be.

And as I gazed at him I thought of sanctuary: a holy, sacred space, an altar, a church; and also a place of safety, protection and care, a shelter, somewhere offering relief and comfort. And then I thought of the Heart of Jesus, and remembered some words from the closing conference for my probation (group preparation for perpetual vows), written by Clare Pratt RSCJ in June 2003, who reminded us that The Heart of Jesus is a place of refuge and welcome, a shelter, a safe place, a place of peace where every fear is put to rest. His is a Heart open to ALL. Like a mother, He reaches out to the weakest and most vulnerable, the mentally and physically handicapped, the psychologically fragile, the addict, the prisoner, the refugee, the unwanted and unloved, those suffering any form of rejection.

And this is the Heart of Christ the King: a hidden sanctuary in our world, for our world, and all its anguish, vulnerability and woes.