This Sunday’s texts are available here.
Canadian sculptor Tim Schmaltz has incited controversy with his bronze statue “Jesus the Homeless.” The image gained notoriety when it was rejected by St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City and St. Michael’s Cathedral in Toronto. The latter image was installed at the Jesuit School of Theology in Toronto and another cast was purchased and installed at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Davidson, NC. The statue depicts a homeless man sleeping on a park bench. His facial features are partially obscured by the blanket that covers him but the marks of crucifixion on his hands and feet clearly identify him as Jesus. After the statue appeared in Davidson, the police were called by a woman who thought it was a real homeless person and others complained that it demeaned the neighborhood. One woman was quoted as saying, “Jesus is not a vagrant; Jesus is not a helpless person who needs our help.” (A story on Huffington Post with images of the statue is here).
This Sunday, the last Sunday of the liturgical year, is Christ the King Sunday, a day when we are encouraged to reflect on the reign of Christ. Often, such reflection takes the form of images of Christ ruling in majesty or coming in triumph. Today’s gospel from Matthew 25, points in a very different direction. We read the familiar parable of sheep, goats, and judgment. For all its familiarity, it continues to challenge us at the core of our existence and at the core of our faith. The king divides sheep and the goats on the basis of how they responded to the deepest human needs: to the hungry and the thirsty, the stranger, the sick, the naked and the prisoner. But when told of their respective fates and the basis for the judgment, sheep and goats answered alike, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or naked?”
The Kingship of Christ, the Reign of Christ, is not primarily about recognizing Christ in majesty and triumph. It is about being Christ—in the weakest, lowliest, and most vulnerable of humans; in feeding and clothing, ministering to and being with the stranger, the sick, the friendless. In acts like these, the reign of God is announced and made present. The reign of Christ is proclaimed in a homeless Jesus.