Jesuit parish to welcome 'Homeless Jesus'

Jesus among the homeless at Holy Trinity Church, Braamfontein
Jesus among the homeless at Holy Trinity Church, Braamfontein

The Homeless Jesus sculpture is to be unveiled at a Jesuit church in South Africa next week. The ceremony at Holy Trinity Church in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, will be attended by many homeless people who regularly attend Monday evening activities at the church.

The “Homeless Jesus” is a work by Canadian sculptor Timothy P Schmalz and is a visual representation of Matthew 25, suggesting that Christ is with the most marginalized in our society. It portrays the Christ figure on a bench, shrouded in a blanket with his face covered, and the only indication that the figure is Jesus is the visible wounds on the feet. The life-size version of the work provides enough room for someone to sit on the bench.

The sculpture has been appreciated around the world and has touched the lives of many people. An original cast of the statue was installed at the Jesuit School of Theology at the University of Toronto after St Michael’s Cathedral in the city turned it down. Pope Francis blessed it in St Peter’s Square in Rome in 2013 and described it as “a beautiful piece of art”. And Fr Matthew Charlesworth SJ of Holy Trinity Church in Johannesburg became familiar with it while he was studying the ThM and STL in Toronto between 2014 and 2016 as part of his Jesuit formation.

Sculptures that are visual prayersPope Francis blessed the Homeless Jesus in Rome, 2013

“While others may produce art to be appreciated for its beauty and emotional power, Timothy (Schmalz) believes his purpose is to create art that has the power to convert, and sculptures that deepen spirituality,” says Matthew, who was a student at Heythrop College University of London where he studied the federal MA in Philosophy between 2007 and 2009. “We all have different ways in which we communicate and give honour to God. [He] honours God through art. He creates sculptures, which he describes as being visual prayers.”

While the primary purpose of the Homeless Jesus is to raise awareness of the marginalized, it also aims to challenge and inspire society to be more compassionate and charitable and to act upon that inspiration. So Holy Trinity in Johannesburg has invited people from the world of art and those who might have interest to join them for the unveiling of the sculpture of Homeless Jesus at 5pm on Monday 6 February outside the Jesuit church next to the Wits (the University of the Witwatersrand) campus in Braamfontein.