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Lent, the bible and the housing crisis

Dr Kevin Hargaden from the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice has written a lenten retreat with a difference, in order to make a difference. Home Thoughts from the Bible in a Time of Housing Crisis is an exploration of the theme of homelessness in the bible from Genesis to the book of Revelation. Viewing scripture through the lens of a social justice theologian, Kevin shows how theology and scripture can inform our positions on social questions in a realistic way, and influence how we spend our time and our money. It can even dictate how we act in the ballot box.

In this interview with Pat Coyle of Irish Jesuit Communications Kevin says that writing this retreat he became convinced of the practical relevance of theology for people’s everyday lives when applied to the bible in this way.

The theme of homelessness runs right through the bible, along with the moral imperatives of how to deal with it, he says. He quotes Isaiah, upbraiding the people because of their greed. “Woe to you who pile house upon house until there’s no more space in the land, says the Old Testament prophet. Kevin points out that it’s a perfect instance of what happened in Celtic Tiger Ireland before the collapse of the economy that exacerbated the housing crisis we have today. The bible portrays a God who continually calls people to consider the ‘common good’ and the protection of the powerless and vulnerable he says, noting that, “There are over 2,000 references to the care of the widow, the orphan and the dispossessed.”

As a Christian, Kevin says he reads the whole bible in light of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus whom he says was the archetypal homeless person having ‘no place to lay his head’.  In early life as a baby he was a refugee, as his mother and father fled with Him into Egypt. “He was also a prisoner, who spent his last night on earth in a jail cell. In Ireland our prisoners are deprived of their homes and their loved ones and our refugees an asylum seekers live in direct provision with no homes of their own.” If we say we follow Christ the we are called to respond those on the margins as He did, says Kevin, who believes the Gospels ought to making an impact on how Church and Christians interact with society. “We have salty, juicy things to say that can’t be said in any way other that what Jesus gives us”.

Home Thoughts from the Bible in a Time of Housing Crisis extends beyond the six weeks of Lent into Easter and the Ascension. It is comprised of seven different readings from the Old and New Testaments, one for each week and accompanied by a reflection written by Kevin. It is available online on this website.

Kevin recommends that the individual or groups taking part in the retreat would read the bible passage a number of times and ponder on it, with the aid of his reflection, during the week. His hope is that the retreatant, as well as ‘coming home to themselves’, will also be led to compassionate caring for others in need in our society, especially those suffering as a result of our seemingly intractable housing crisis.