No Room in the Inn – A Story About Friendship
Life of Christ (Week 2 of 27)
When finally the scrolls of history are completed down to the last words in time, the saddest line of all will be: “There was no room in the inn.” —Life of Christ, Chapter 2: Bethlehem, Paragraph 3
There was once a widower named Jacob who lived next door to a family with three children. When the family pulled their moving van up to the curb of their new home, Jacob had been working outside and offered to help them unload. After a long day of moving furniture and carrying boxes, the family invited Jacob to join them for pizza, after which they all enjoyed ice cream cones for dessert.
From that day forward, Jacob became a close friend of the family. He joined them for dinner often, and could always be counted on for family celebrations. He attended birthdays, holidays, and sacramental celebrations, often even joining the family for Sunday Mass.
A couple years into their relationship, the family learned they were expecting a fourth child. When little Nathaniel was born, Jacob was honored to become his godfather. The two immediately developed a special bond. From the time Nathan could walk, he would rush to the foyer and jump into Jacob’s arms the moment he crossed the threshold. The little boy would watch out the window so he could run outside every afternoon when Jacob collected his mail. The two spent untold hours together. Nathan “helped” Jacob plant his garden in the spring, and throughout the summer, he could be seen carefully weeding under Jacob’s kind tutelage. No matter that he trampled the vegetables. Jacob was a patient and loving man. He often took Nathan for long walks in the afternoon while the boy’s mother cooked dinner. Once he even found a garter snake in his yard and took it next door so Nathan could hold it in his hands and examine it closely, before releasing it into the field behind their house. Theirs was a very special friendship.
Shortly after he turned three, Nathan’s family received news that their dad was being promoted to a new position. This meant moving the family six hours North, to Minnesota. Jacob and Nathan were both devastated, but the old man kept a positive attitude for the sake of the boy. At their parting, Jacob presented Nathan with a framed photo of the two of them in the garden where they’d shared so many great memories. On the back, he’d written in permanent marker, “To My Very Special Buddy! Love, Mr. Jacob.”
Nathan held that photo close to his chest as they drove away, continuing to wave well after he lost sight of his friend. When the family arrived at their new home, the boy’s mother, in the midst of unpacking and organizing, placed the picture in a cupboard for safe keeping. In the craziness of the move and the excitement of their new home, the memento was quickly forgotten.
Over the first few months, Nathan was permitted to call Jacob a few times on the phone, while his mother kept their friend abreast of family news. Nathan told his parents often that he missed his special friend. But little hearts are easily malleable. It didn’t take long for Nathan to get busy with new friends at preschool and exciting activities in his new community.
About a year after their move, Jacob called about being in the area on a trip. The family immediately made plans for him to visit, thrilled to see their old neighbor. But when Jacob walked in, something interesting happened. Nathan, who had been so excited to see his friend, didn’t rush into Jacob’s arms when he walked in the door. His mother coaxed him, encouraging Nathan’s excitement. But the more she encouraged, the more hesitant he became. Nathan liked the idea of seeing Jacob. But in his presence, he had grown a bit uncomfortable.
Despite the initial tension, the family enjoyed a nice dinner with their old friend. Nathan warmed up as the night wore on, but it wasn’t quite the same as it had been just a year before when they’d spent so much time together.
A few years later, when Nathan was eight, his mother sent an invitation to Jacob for Nathan’s First Communion. He happily attended the blessed occasion. But at eight years old, Nathan didn’t recognize his old friend. The man that appeared in his home for his special celebration – the man that had been Nathan’s godfather and “Very Special Buddy” – had become a stranger to him.
This happens often in life. We make friends, and then as time and separation take their toll, we lose contact. In the case of someone as young as Nathan, close friends can be completely forgotten.
Time and proximity are key ingredients in a friendship. In our world, Jesus has been eliminated from the public square. It’s almost as if, as a culture, we’ve moved away from a close friend and have gradually lost touch.
Time and proximity are taking their toll.
When we send our children to school for 8 hours a day and they are not permitted to hear the name of Jesus, how are they supposed to develop a close relationship with Him? We may soak them in their Faith as best we can; but, lacking a presence in school or the culture – two places where they spend most of their time as they grow – how are they supposed to recognize Him in their midst?
And what about us? When the time we spend with Our Lord is limited to an hour at Mass on Sunday, how can we develop a relationship with Him? How can we trust Him with our deepest thoughts, with our greatest dreams? [Or maybe you are someone who makes a point to spend more time with Jesus. Great! But no doubt the same applies to you. Have you ever tried to go to adoration after a long break? It’s a bit uncomfortable at first, isn’t it?]
As a culture, we’ve created – or at the very least we’ve allowed others to create – a world where Jesus is not welcome. As a result of keeping Him at bay, many no longer recognize Him at all. The growing numbers of professed atheists and agnostics reflect this fact. Further evidence is visible in the number of Christians who have “manufactured” a Jesus to fit their own liking – when we don’t spend time with our friends, the image we recollect of them better fits our own imagination than the incontrovertible reality of their flesh and blood.
Whether the “Inn” is the local school, colleges and universities, places of business, or the halls of Congress, when there is no room for Jesus, we destroy our ability to make Him the center of our lives, and we deny our children an opportunity to know Him at all.
And if there is no room for Jesus in the Inn of our institutions, how can we make room for Him in the temple of our hearts?
Today, the King of the Universe is waiting for us to invite Him back into the public square; into our classrooms, our institutions of research, our businesses, our culture and our homes. He is waiting for us to sweep open the doors of hospitality and assure Him that, for Him, there is always room in the Inn.
Will we open the doors?
Or will the annals of recorded history forever note that today – in our time – There was no room in the inn?
Ch. 2: PREHISTORY NOW HISTORY to OBEDIENCE AND THE CHILD IN THE TEMPLE
1. What are some steps you can take to make room in the Inn?
2. Feel free to comment on anything from our assignment this past week!
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