SHELTERING THE HOMELESS
'Behold, I stand at the door and knock;’
(Rev. 3. 30)
These words, taken from the Book of Revelation, are rightly understood to refer to Jesus knocking at the door of our lives, waiting patiently for us to open and make Him welcome. We're warned against ignoring His knock or deliberately shutting Him out.
But our lives may be too rowdy and busy for us to hear Him, or we may deliberately ignore His knock. We fear He would be too demanding and would be an inconvenient embarrassment. We’ve all heard sermons on these lines. Some of us have preached them. Afterwards we’ve probably resolved to make Jesus more welcome in our daily lives.
But let us remember that Jesus has made it very clear that He identifies with those in any kind of need. In other words, Jesus Himself identifies with the thousands of refugees and asylum seekers desperately fleeing their homeland, the run-away child, the tramp sleeping on the park bench. In them Jesus knocks on the doors of our lives, the doors of our affluent countries. In them Jesus begs for a home. In them Jesus begs to be made welcome. They need not just a roof over their heads, to protect them against the elements; they want the security of a place of their own, a place where they feel they belong, somewhere for them to have a decent quality of life. Most of us take all of this for granted for ourselves.
But now put yourself in the shoes of the person knocking at our doors. To be deaf to their plea for shelter, is to be deaf to these ‘other Christs,’ longing, needing to make their homes with us. In them we react to the same Jesus, who prayed that we would abide in Him and He in us. If we shut Him out from our lives He will shut us out from His. That’s the clear, dire warning He gives at the end of chapter 25 of St. Matthew’s Gospel.
In His own life on earth Jesus knew what it meant not to have a roof over His head. When there was no room at the inn He was born in a stable. Shortly afterwards, the Holy Family became refugees; they had to flee Herod’s persecution and seek sanctuary in Egypt. In this they identified with all refugees. Speaking of His ministry as a wandering preacher Jesus said,
"The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head’ (Lk. 9.58).
That is the lot of so many thousands of homeless people today. Jesus identifies with each one of them. In each one of them He knocks and waits. Will we open up and give them a home? Will we make Jesus-in-them welcome?
As Individuals, we can’t solve the heart-breaking problem of so many rootless, homeless people. But we can urge our national and local government to acts to provide them with homes. We can support and perhaps work with the various housing agencies and charities. But ideally, their homelands need to become sufficiently safe and prosperous, so that they can return, or better still, never need to leave.
But underlying our approach to the homeless must be the conviction that Jesus identifies with them in their need. Our attitude to them reflects our attitude to Him. If we shut them out, we shut Him out. In them Jesus appeals for our compassion. That should make us very uncomfortable!
Let us pray,
Heavenly Father, the world is horrified by the number of homeless refugees and asylum seekers. Armed conflict, economic hardship and starvation have forced them to leave their homeland, their loved ones and all their possessions. They’ve been forced to risk their very lives in an attempt to survive.
In their destitution they cry to you for help; they appeal to us of the prosperous developed world. If they are overwhelmed by their plight, so are we. And yet deep down we know we can’t simply brush them aside and say, "not my problem." We know that as fellow human beings, and as our brothers and sisters in Christ, their problem is our problem.
We pray for your guidance in finding the best way to help the homeless. May we find ways to overcome the causes of their flight, so that they don’t feel the need to leave their homelands. Or if they have done. so may they be helped to return and rebuild what has been destroyed. In the meantime may we respond to their immediate needs, and provide them with the shelter and security they desperately require. Inspire us, as individuals and as nations, to be prepared to make the demanding sacrifice necessary for us to be of real assistance.
We ask this through your Son, Jesus Christ, Our Lord, who identified with the homeless in their need.