To shelter the homeless

By Br Mark O'Connor FMS, 17 March 2020
Image: Dimi Katsavaris/Unsplash.


After a long journey there is often a real sense of relief in simply getting ‘home’ – finally! Indeed, we all need to find a ‘home’ in our lives. Not just a physical building, but a place where we feel safe and secure.

In his book, Care of the Soul: A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life, Thomas Moore suggests that if we were to ‘read’ our own house, “at some point you would find yourself standing before the tools of housework: vacuum cleaner, broom, dust mop, soaps, sponges, dishpan, hammer, screwdriver. These things are very simple, and yet they are fundamental to the feelings we have of being at home”.

Being at ‘home’ is vital for our psyches. Of course, we are talking about dwelling places of inclusion not exclusion, not ‘fortresses’ built to keep people out.

No wonder that Christians have always sought to include people ‘in’ – to shelter the homeless and give hospitality and a ‘home’ to strangers and refugees. For in welcoming the stranger and the homeless, in ‘sheltering’ them, we want to also share with them the joy and peace of being at ‘home’ with us as friends of Christ Jesus our brother; a brother who himself knew the pain and frustration of being homeless. Recall Jesus’ words: “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Matt 8:20; Lk 9:58).

Commenting on this passage, Fr Gerald O’Collins SJ notes: “Foxes can be safe because they live in arm burrows down in the earth; birds can be safe and sound in their nests, high up in trees; but Jesus did not have that kind of safety and security. He had no home he could call his own, no fixed dwelling where he could lay his head on a pillow and go to sleep at night. He lived his life out in the open, sometimes alone and sometimes sleeping rough at night.”

And the ‘homeless’ Jesus is still knocking at the door of our hearts asking for shelter. Some answer that call. One need look no further than the remarkable work of Mother Teresa’s Missionary Sisters of Charity to see an example of how much people – especially people who have been rejected – desperately need the healing power of hospitality.

So many of our own Parramatta Diocesan agencies and works, from CatholicCare to the St Vincent de Paul Society to the Knights of Malta Soup Van, are all living out Christ’s loving embrace of the homeless in our midst.

“What we would like to do is change the world – make it a little simpler for people to feed, clothe, and shelter themselves as God intended for them to do. And, by fighting for better conditions, by crying out unceasingly for the rights of the workers, of the poor, of the destitute … we can, to a certain extent, change the world; we can work for the oasis, the little cell of joy and peace in a harried world. We can throw our pebble in the pond and be confident that its ever-widening circle will reach around the world. We repeat, there is nothing that we can do but love and, dear God, please enlarge our hearts to love each other, to love our neighbour, to love our enemy as well as our friend.”—Dorothy Day.

This article is part of a series of Lenten reflections entitled A Spirit of Mercy: Reflections on the Works of Mercy by Br Mark O’Connor FMS.

Br Mark O’Connor FMS is the Vicar for Communications in the Diocese of Parramatta.


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