Jesus was laid in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Before he had even been born, he was being rejected. And this was the way throughout his entire life, culminating in his crucifixion. He often offended those with any authority, position, or respectability, and was, by the usual measure of influence, a failure. Everyone who was anyone had something against him. It was with the failures, the useless, and the rejects, the poor, the disabled, and the unrighteous, that Jesus was accepted.
Why? I believe it is Jesus’ generosity and meekness. Jesus gave himself so unreservedly, that he was truly free. He wasn’t aiming for any repayment, and so his gifts were entirely his own, and for his own purposes. When he preached, it wasn’t to gain followers to satisfy his vanity or desire for power, but simply to bless, liberate and save whoever would listen. By his life and teaching, he presented in complete freedom, the truly good life; and so his perfect generosity, was completely demanding.
No matter how rich, powerful, or respectable you might be, there is no way you could bribe or lobby Jesus; and nothing made them feel so powerless. All who considered themselves rich, whether by wealth, power, or even righteousness before God, found this man a mad fool, driven by demons to be in all ways poor and lowly, when he might be great and rich. And his staunch and mindless poverty, by its disregard weakened their own richness, and was spreading to all the lowly of the world.
The only people who would accept Jesus, were those who knew themselves to be truly poor, with no hope of buying this man. Only the poor can truly accept a gift. And so Jesus was sent to the poor, the lame, the blind, the prostitutes, the sinners and tax collectors, to welcome them, to be most truly and uncontrollably theirs.
‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.’ Matthew 5:3
When Jesus was dying upon the cross, it was only the man dying beside him who asked to be remembered, and was then promised to be with him paradise. Only those with nothing but the mercy of others, can accept a crucified saviour. For anyone else, he is too ugly, too messy, too weak.
Yet, even nailed to the cross, he is radically free, because he is always giving. In his injuries he gives forgiveness, in his suffering he gives love, in his death he gives life. He accepts the crucifixion meekly, but then blesses it with the resurrection. He enters all weakness, and provides God’s creative strength. As St. Francis said,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, let me sow pardon.
Where there is doubt, let me sow faith.
Where there is despair, let me sow hope.
Where there is darkness, let me sow light.
Where there is sadness, let me sow joy.
And so we may see the truth of Jesus’ words,
‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.’ Mt 5:5
It is the meek, the undemanding, who are truly free, and shall truly liberate. They are rejected, and they are lowly, but they scatter their seed freely, and it bears fruit. They live love, and the lowly learn love from them, and the world is transformed from its base. In the midst of their rejection, they build solidarity; In sin, they forgive; In division they bring unity; In conflict they make peace; In hatred they love; and in all things, they bear the almighty God, who to bring down the powerful from their thrones and uplift the lowly (Lk 1:52) was incarnate, born as a baby, and laid in a manger.
Lord, reveal to me my poverty, and teach me your meekness.
God bless you