You should defend those who cannot help themselves. Yes, speak up for the poor and needy and see that they get justice. Proverbs 31:8
This sculpture is called “Homeless Jesus”, and stands outside the The Basilica of Saint Mary in Minneapolis, and is designed to challenge and inspire each of us to be more compassionate and charitable and to see Jesus in each person we meet, and to take action to help end homelessness locally and around the world.
Luke tells us that Jesus himself “Had nowhere to lay his head”, and that he relied on the hospitality of his friends to share their food and lodging with him, though they themselves often had very little to begin with. Jesus, his disciples and those he ministered to were part of a regime where they were poor, subjected and oppressed, and often thought of by the Roman empire as expendable.
Jessica Williams of the Poor People’s Campaign invites us to think further about Jesus poverty:
“Jesus was a poor man” is a theological statement. It is more than saying “Jesus cares about the poor,”—how Matthew 25:31–46 is often interpreted. In Matthew 25, what is usually translated as “the least of these” is the Greek word elachistoi, which literally means “the smallest or most insignificant ones”: in other words, the expendables. Jesus’s identity as one of the least of these is not a romantic, charitable notion; it is Jesus’s reality. He is saying that the social class of expendables are his people. The homeless, the poor, the incarcerated are Jesus’s friends, family, disciples, and followers, and Jesus himself.
Being a follower of Jesus means something deeper than charity. Being Christlike means joining a movement, led by the poor and dispossessed, to lift the load of poverty.
Jesus teaches there is a moral equivalency between himself and other people. Jesus says, “Whatever you do to others, you do to me” (Matthew 25:40). How you treat other human beings is how you treat Jesus.
As we travel together this Lent and are confronted by those living with poverty, homelessness and oppression, let us consider what it would feel like to treat each person as Jesus would. How would it change our actions and opinions if, like in the sculpture above, it was Jesus himself lying homeless on a bench, alone in the cold? How can we today reach out with kindness, generosity and hospitality to those our world sees so often as the expendables?
There are many groups working together in Bedford to assist the homeless – more information can be found here: About | Bedford Homeless.