How ironic! Jesus experienced rejection even before he was born. “She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7) There was no room for Jesus in the inn, so Mary and Joseph had to settle for a cave that was used as a stable for animals.
While these circumstances may have served God’s purpose in taking on our humanity in the humblest of settings, you have to wonder what the innkeeper might have done had he known who Mary and Joseph were and what was about to happen.
We should not be too harsh in judging the innkeeper, for how often have we failed to make room for Jesus in our lives? There have been times in my life when I made more room for my career than I did for Jesus. There have been other times, when, like the innkeeper, I did not recognize Jesus in a colleague looking for someone to talk to or the street person looking for help on the streets of New York.
Let me share a story to illustrate, and I apologize that it will extend the usual length of this blog.
When we lived in New York and I was commuting on the trains into Manhattan each day, I would sometimes attend daily mass at St. Matthews just a half block east of Grand Central station. Since my train did not arrive until 7:32 and mass started at 7:30, I would always be rushing to get there by the time of the first reading. One day as I was rushing to get into the church, there was a man standing on the church steps who asked me to help him, but because I was so programed to get into the church by the time of the first reading, I ran right by him.
As I sat down in the pew, I thought to myself, “What did I just do?” Here someone was asking me to help him and I ran right by him, ignoring his request so I could get into the church at a given time. I was just like the innkeeper. I had no room or time for this guy.
I committed to myself that if he was still there when I walked out, I would see what he needed. When I came out of the church, he was no longer on the steps, but leaning over the front bumper of a car on the street, vomiting. “No way,” I thought, and started to walk across the street through a revolving door of a building that would take me to my building.
But the Spirit kept me in that revolving door and back around I went to exit where I entered to check out this guy one more time. I walked over to him and said, “Pretty sick, uh?” He was too sick to speak. He just nodded his head. I asked if he wanted some breakfast and we went into a little diner next to the church.
It turns out that his name was Richard. He had been a trumpet player for a band, but lost his job, started drinking, got rolled, beat up, and lost everything he had. After connecting him up with the Salvation Army, I saw him about a week later. He was all cleaned up with new clothes and suitcase. He said he was going to Hartford, Ct., which was his home. I congratulated him and was delighted to see what had happened.
Then a couple of days later, there he was again, all beat up, his clothes torn, looking awful. I asked Richard, “What happened?” He couldn’t say. He just looked at me with his hollow eyes and shook his head. I told him to meet me at 10 o’clock, at 43d & Lexington; that I was going to buy him a train ticket to Hartford and put him on the train. I bought him the ticket, went to 43rd and Lexington, but Richard never showed up and I never saw him again.
The good news is that God never ceases to give us opportunities to make room for him through his son, Jesus. He is always inviting us to open the door of our hearts so he can reproduce himself in us through the power of the Holy Spirit. He is always inviting us to love, to forgive, to serve — to build his Kingdom on this earth in the daily circumstances of our lives.
So let us ask ourselves, am I making room for Jesus today in how I relate to the people in my life — my spouse, my children, school friends, work colleagues and the stranger for whom there is no room in the inn?