Sometimes events coincide happily. At other times the coincidence rings strangely. This year Youth Homelessness Matters Day is celebrated the day before Easter Sunday: desolation confronts happiness, penury plenty, and deprivation plenitude.
When events clash most sharply, they may also illuminate one another most brightly. The Easter stories invite deep reflection on home and on homelessness, on finding a home and being made to feel at home.
The stories told about Jesus' rising begin with homelessness — with people grieving for Jesus. When we are in grief we are made homeless. Our loss turns our physical home into a mere house.
The connections between the house and the person whom we have loved no longer ground and reassure us. They torment us. We mistake friends for the council gardeners. We feel alone in a world without walls or roof, where the wind blows coldly and the rain pours in.
That is what grief does to adults. It is also what homelessness does to children. It robs their present of meaning, their future of hope and their relationships of constancy. Homelessness is no place for children.
The stories of Jesus' death explore homelessness. As it is for all of us his home was his body. It was lived in, fed, cared for, hospitable to friends and formidable to enemies. His body was the place where dreams were nurtured, life's projects planned and personality displayed. It was the monument by which he would be remembered.
The Romans did their best to ensure that it was forgotten. They did a demolition job on his body, making sure that everyone saw it marked with whips, thorns, nails, blood and dirt and put on display like a side of beef in a butcher shop. His memory was to be a home for no one.
His friends' homelessness was compounded by the disappearance of his body. It thwarted their desire to wash and lay out his body so that they could remember his life as their home. Their last contact with him was cut. They shared momentarily the terrible suffering of those whose children have been killed but whose bodies are not to be found. They have no closure, we say. But in reality they have no opening — the door of their home is padlocked.
"It is the responsibility of society to find children a home in which they can be safe to make connections, see possibilities, heal their wounds and allow others to touch them in love, share food and stories."
This is also true of young people made homeless. They lose their bodies: their dreams, their security, their self-respect, their connections and their address. They are vulnerable, constantly at risk of intrusion and exclusion. Their heads drop, their shoulders sag, their faces pale and their skin roughens. Homelessness is no place for children.
The Gospel stories do not end with homelessness. They are about rebuilding body and home. They remake connections in which memories turn from absence to presence, from devastation to joy. They are about shared meals by the shore, about touching wounds in consolation, not in revulsion, about angels and not ghosts waiting in tombs, about embracing, about gathering. They are about a hope that is not limited by locked doors and walls or by the intractability of the body, the obverse of Richard Wilbur's lines:
Kick at the rock, Sam Johnson, break your bones:
But cloudy, cloudy is the stuff of stones.
Nor should any child's story end in homelessness or in a body gone cloudy. It is the responsibility of society to find them a home in which they can be safe to make connections, see possibilities, heal their wounds and allow others to touch them in love, share food and stories. These are the things that make the stuff of bodies solid and luminescent.
Easter is the right time to find homes for children.
Andrew Hamilton is consulting editor of Eureka Street.
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12 April 2017
In the dictionary, 'home' can be defined as: a place of origin, a starting position; the finishing point in a race; an environment offering security and happiness; a source. All good things and every child needs these good things.
12 April 2017
I've long observed that children whose housing changes too frequently don't learn some of the most important things of life. They plant seeds but don't see them flower - what does that do to their sense of time and purpose? They see their parents fight with the neighbours - next day they may be packed into the car and find a new home in a caravan park twenty miles away. What does that do to their understanding that reconciliation is possible? What if they can never know or be known by their neighbours? Resurrection happens every day, but children in unstable environments miss out on its signs. You're right, Andrew. Easter is the time to demonstrate to children what 'home' means, and healing, and repentance, and resurrection.
13 April 2017
While I believe that prose can be written with poetic overtones I do not believe prose masquerading as poetry is anything other than prose and definitely not poetry. Today, Father Andrew, although in prose form, you have written a truly beautiful poem - almost Hopkinsesque yet without any of his magical word associations! A delight despite its tragic subject.
13 April 2017
"As it is for all of us his home was his body. It was lived in, fed, cared for, hospitable to friends and formidable to enemies. His body was the place where dreams were nurtured, life's projects planned and personality displayed. It was the monument by which he would be remembered." Ignatian spirituality as I have never heard it expressed before. Thanks, Andy, for making this a memorable Maundy Thursday.
13 April 2017
"Easter is the right time to find homes for children." We are all like homeless children. Home is where the heart is. Our ultimate home is with God; The Kingdom of God is within us, within reach of our minds and hearts. But to achieve this we must strive to expand our minds and hearts until we can Know, Love and Serve God alone. This can only be accomplished by stages, step by step; removing obstacles such as dependence on created things that should be stepping stones, but can become stumbling blocks,
if we cling to them too dearly. Children need help in removing the obstacles and providing the inspiration to make their development possible.