A few weeks ago, the pastor here said to me at dinnertime, what are you doing tomorrow morning? I said, I have plans already, I have to go to help at the school with the physics lab, and there’s a group of students I’m meeting later on. Oh, he said, there’s a meeting tomorrow morning with all the local priests and the bishop. You’re invited to come. Well, I can’t, I can’t leave all the students waiting. It would have been nice to know before the very last minute.
Last week, I was speaking with the project manager in the project for care for the disabled here. She was thinking of having a meeting. How about tomorrow, I asked. She said, OK, tomorrow at 8:30, that works well for me. So I come for the meeting, and when we’re done, we are all invited into another room. There is everyone from the program starting a Yankee swap type gift exchange. Me? Well, somehow they worked me in to getting a gift, but I had to sit through the awkwardness of not having a gift to give. I had no idea about the gift swap until I stepped into it. I never got the memo.
We have a washing machine for laundry here, but no dryer. You hang your clothes on the line. One problem: one of the only two seasons here is called the rainy season. That means that you need shelter to do your drying. So, several months ago, in the middle of the rainy season, I went to go and do my laundry. I put my clothes in the machine, and came back an hour later. When I took them out of the washer, I went to go and hang them up. The only problem was that the cabana that has the shelter for drying had been just been completely torn down and wasn’t going to be ready for a week. It seemed like everyone else knew but me.
OK, I think you get the point. I am the last, I mean the LAST, person here to know what is going on. I live in the parish house, people think I might be one of the first to know something about what is going on around here, but I am the last, dead last, to know.
Now, I know what you’re saying, well that stinks, Jerome, what are you going to do about it. Here’s my answer:
Because it makes me need God.
On the night of Jesus’ birth, there is the census party going on. That’s right, people are home for the holidays, for the big census taking. Family gatherings are planned. Lists and contacts are made. Taverns are filled, restaurants. And there’s great cheer and plenty of embibing and gift sharing. But the shepherds? The shepherds have no idea what’s going on. They don’t get the memos, they’re not in the know – no, they are the last to know. They are out of the loop.
They are the ones who need God.
I often ask my friends who have kids, when your first child was born, who was the first person you told? Mothers. Parents. Always that. The people who are closest to them.
When God’s first-born son was born, the first people he told, the ones who got the good news and were invited for the first visit, were the shepherds. The ones who normally don’t get the memo, the ones who are left out, the ones who are the last to know, got the greatest invitation in recorded history: not just one angel, but a whole choir of angel messengers. Because they are the closest to God. The ones who need Him.
God wants to share His greatest moments with us, too. He wants to be with us. He wants to make us the first on His guest book. But if we have enough, there’s no room for Him, He can’t come in. It starts in the place where we are empty, where we are last.
That’s where we are closest to God.
Where we need Him.
“So the last will be first.” (Mt 20:16)