December 25, 2017
“Into this world, this demented inn in which there is absolutely no room for him at all, Christ comes uninvited.”
Fr. Thomas Merton, OCSO
The tradition of Las Posadas recalls the difficulty Mary and Joseph had in finding a place of lodging in the town of Bethlehem. Fr. Thomas Merton, the Trappist priest, poet and social commentator saw in that event a symbol of the world’s rejection of God. This fallen world is “a demented inn,” where everything that is of God is either ignored, resisted, opposed, or persecuted. Any person, even the saint, who is born under the curse of original sin, experiences the initial approach of God as something foreign, even frightening. God is an existential threat to the world-as-it-is, because He always invites us to a different world; a world of “the reign of God” or “the kingdom of God.”
Entering that kingdom means leaving the old world, the old way of seeing and doing things, the way that we’ve grown accustomed to and comfortable with. Even if we’re miserable, it’s a known misery, and there may be a kind of comfort in its predictability. Why else do people from alcoholic families so often marry an alcoholic? Why else do so many people (women, mostly) stay with abusive partners? Why else do we keep trying to settle problems through war, when even the first world war - “the war to end all wars” - failed to keep that promise?
There’s no room for Jesus in the lives of the wealthy and complacent. Why change when there’s an illusion of control and security to hold on to?
There’s no room for Jesus in the lives of the poor if he will not immediately bring a change of fortune – or even promise to do that.
There’s no comfortable space for God in the life of any descendant of Adam, because God is not satisfied with a little corner, with a spare guestroom in the heart. God knocks on the door and not only wants to come into our heart, but rearrange the furniture and maybe even hold an estate sale until there’s nothing left of the old heart and the old life. “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you” (Ezekiel 36:26) can be heard as both a promise and a threat.
Mary and Joseph continue to bring Jesus to us who are the innkeepers of our own hearts, full of noisy guests: plans, distractions, attractions, grudges, and more. May we have the courage to invite in Him Who humbly approaches us uninvited.