Litany of the Homeless
"Homeless Jesus" sculpture by Timothy P. Schmalz
Biography as the Call to Holiness (Lumen Gentium par. 39)
From September 2013 to March 2014, I spent a sabbatical encountering the homeless on the streets and in shelters. It was an unstructured sabbatical where I learned life lessons I would not have learned in classrooms. After 42 years of a life structured and defined by calendars, I desired a radically different change of interior rhythm and landscape.
So I became a pilgrim with the homeless, downsizing my life and acquiring their rhythm of walking, begging and seeking shelter. I learned new life lessons about living with less and embracing the beggar in me. The shedding process resulted in an interior freedom that opened wider the eyes of my heart to find the presence of the divine hidden in the homeless. With an enlarged heart a spirituality of the homeless emerged. It fit both the homeless living on the streets and the homeless living in houses.
The most poignant life lesson I learned is that being homeless means more than "being displaced" from a physical structure. There is also "being displaced" interiorly when one is uprooted by a personal crisis, estranged from family, betrayed by friends, bullied by co-workers, living without self-worth, haunted by the voice of failure that can become cancerous if left untreated, and other unresolved issues that kick us off balance leaving us feeling homeless inside. What we do with that interior homelessness determines how we build a new interior house from the ashes of those issues.
A spirituality of the homeless can aid the rebuilding process for an extreme interior makeover. It begins and ends with a Judeo- Christian God whose only desire is to be at home with people whose life pilgrimage is to become more at home in God. In the words of St. Augustine (354-430), who lived the first half of his life interiorly homeless, "Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee."
This litany is a fruit of my sabbatical. I share it to nurture your spiritual journey of becoming more interiorly at home with the God who dwells in you, to help you see more clearly God dwelling in the homeless on every street and in every house.
God, who made a home among humans...
• Have mercy on the way we mistreat you in the homeless.
Jesus, who knew homelessness from birth to death...
• Give us compassion toward the homeless.
Holy Spirit, who changes hearts to make room for the homeless...
• Give us patience in our rebirth process.
Jesus, born homeless in Bethlehem,
• May we not miss you in those born homeless.
Jesus, homeless in the flight into Egypt,
• May we not miss you in those fleeing oppression.
Jesus, homeless in the journey to Jerusalem,
• Embrace us in our inner journeys from homelessness to fulfillment.
Jesus, who, unlike the foxes, had no place in which to lay your head,
• Be in our journey to find a home in heaven.
Jesus, who felt homeless in the lonely journey to the cross,
• Help us carry the crosses of being lonely or afraid.
Jesus, who felt homeless in satisfying human hungers for hope and healing,
• Free us of being homeless in our despairs and hurts.
Jesus, who felt homeless in trying to change stubborn and resistant hearts,
• Be a healing presence in our restless hearts.
Jesus, who felt homeless in a dark tomb,
• Free us of being homeless by the dark tombs of prejudice and hate.
Jesus, freed from homelessness on Easter morning,
• Pierce our inner places of homelessness each day with the light
of Easter glory.
Jesus, who freed disciples from the homelessness of sadness for mission,
• Disciple us to free all the homeless for a new mission in their lives.
Let us pray,
Son of God, a savior born homeless, so much of your life was spent on the road. You paid attention to the poor and lonely on streets and in villages. You healed many of the inner homelessness of isolation and pain. You touched others and gave them back their dignity. Your style of compassion is a model for living the Gospel. Stir in us new passions for passing it on so that whenever we reveal your compassionate face and care to the homeless and hurting they find you in us and we find you in them. In this meeting ground all homelessness is transformed by your loving presence and all hearts are made new in your image and likeness, Jesus Christ, yesterday, today and forever. Amen.
Composed by: Rev. Paul G. Mast
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