In April, I attended the Chrism Mass at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral in Detroit. I was fortunate to have a seat in the front row; the seats reserved for priests behind the altar and to the right of the altar were filled, so the “overflow” seating for priests was the first few rows. Lucky!
There was a statue that I had never seen before in the Cathedral. It was located at the front of the sanctuary, in front of the altar. It was the statue of a man in robes, with an arm and hand outstretched. His face was down and covered. In front of him was a simple plate and cup. The statue intrigued me so much so that I could barely pay attention to the Mass. Was this a statue of Jesus, celebrating the Last Supper with his disciples? Or was this the statue of a poor, homeless person, begging for something to eat or to drink? I couldn’t decide. Maybe it was meant to be that way. Maybe it was Jesus, and he was in the person of the homeless man, pleading for something to eat or drink that day. The image of that statue “bothered” me to the point that I had to investigate it. Was it meant to be Jesus? Or just a local beggar?
I discovered that the Cathedral had leased a few statutes for the Lenten season; this was just one of them. Others portrayed a homeless person sleeping on a park bench, a sick person covered in a blanket, and others. The artist is Timothy P. Schmalz. You can check out his statues online.
I think that one of the reasons that I was so moved by the statue was that I couldn’t decide, in my mind (and my heart) if it was meant to be Jesus, or a homeless hungry man. Of course, the answer is obvious. It was BOTH. “I was hungry and you gave me to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me to drink. Whatsoever you do to one of the least of my brothers or sisters, you did to me.”
As a parish, we are called to reach out to others in need. Yes, indeed, each one of them is Jesus. The poor. The hungry and thirsty. The homeless. Those in need of medical care. We need not travel to downtown Detroit to encounter them, we meet them every day. We are in the process of reorganizing our Christian Service Commission, and we need YOUR help. If you have some extra time and want to live out your Christian faith in a practical way, please consider joining us. A parish that is just concerned about itself and maintaining itself is not living out Jesus’ call. We need a lot of hands and hearts. You can’t really tell Jesus that you are too busy, can you??
By the way, the statue left such an impression on me that I bought a miniature size one to remind me always to See Jesus in the most needy of my brothers and sisters.