It is unusual perhaps for the unveiling of a religious sculpture to gain so much front page interest in the secular media but it is perhaps an indication that the subject of the statue touched a nerve in the public interest, portraying as it does Jesus as a homeless man sleeping on a park bench. It was unveiled on 7 December in its location at the rear of St. George’s Tron before quite a substantial crowd who had to take care not to be sideswiped by buses making their way through Nelson Mandela Place.
The project has taken time to come to fruition in Glasgow since Fr. Willie Slavin first broached it. The sculpture is the creation of Canadian artist Timothy P Schmalz whose purpose is to get each of us to think about homelessness. He has subtitled it Matthew 25, recalling the passage in the Gospel of Matthew where the Lord says “insofar as you did this to one of my brothers and sisters, you did it to me”. A small copy of it has been blessed by Pope Francis and there are copies now in countries all over the world.
The Glasgow unveiling followed a short service which included the reading of Matthew 25 by Archbishop Tartaglia, and a prayer by the Moderator of Glasgow Presbytery, Rev Ian Galloway. The weather was cold and by the end pretty wet, and those present probably reflected on how it must be for those who are homeless, particularly at this time of year, as they retreated into the warm shelter of St. George’s Tron to enjoy the hospitality of the Wild Olive Café before the second unveiling fo the day – that of Peter Howson’s painting of “Homeless Jesus” which he had done for the installation of the sculpture. The powerful painting will later go on
tour to events which highlight the plight of the homeless.