A “Jesus the Homeless” sculpture was rejected by two prominent Catholic churches in Toronto and New York. While the sculpture did eventually find a home (on a bench), it appeared the churches decided they had no room (or some other excuse).
The sculpture was created by artist Timothy Schmalz, who specializes in religious artwork. Rectors at both cathedrals were excited about the sculpture being placed in their halls. They even showed Schmalz possible locations for it to be placed.
But the higher-ups in the archdiocese weren’t as thrilled about the clay sculpture. Schmalz commented, “Homeless Jesus had no home. How ironic.”
The “Jesus the Homeless” sculpture depicts a slight figure shrouded by a blanket and sleeping on a bench. The gaping wounds in the subjects feet reveal who he is, though the draped blanket nearly covers his face. But, as Schmalz explained, he was told “it was not an appropriate image.” He added:
“It was very upsetting because the rectors liked it, but when it got to the administration, people thought it might be too controversial or vague.”
The artist explained that “Jesus the Homeless” was created to show how the son of God identified with even the poorest among us.
And while the Toronto archdiocese tried to help the artist find an alternative location, he was not satisfied. Schmalz explained that he wanted the sculpture to reach a broader, more secular audience. He added that he almost gave up finding a home for homeless Jesus.
The sculpture was finally placed near Wellesley St. W. outside Regis College at the University of Toronto. the college is a Jesuit school of theology, which is attended by priests and lay people alike. It has an emphasis on social justice. For theologian Thomas Reynolds, the meaning behind the sculpture immediately resonated.
Reynolds called the statue provocative, adding that it “punctures the illusions of normalcy.” But the ordeal the homeless Jesus statue went through to get to its final resting place seemed appropriate for the image.