Bill Jones called my yesterday to tell me about the homily given during Palm Sunday’s mass. The homily was built around a poem by C.G. Chesterton titled “The Donkey.”
And figs grew upon thorns,
When fishes flew and forests walked
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born.
With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings,
The devil’s walking parody
On all four-footing things.
The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge deride me; I am dumb
I keep my secret still.
Fool! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet;
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.
Talking with Bill reminded me that my parents have a donkey. They bought Gus 25 years ago when the moved to Louisiana. The only reason they have a donkey is to have a donkey. An old farmer told them that everyone with pasture land needed a donkey. Basically, Gus is eye candy for the back pasture.
Donkeys have a bad reputation. They are typically viewed as stupid and stubborn. Even though they have been working animals for over 5000 years, they are generally considered lazy. Their overall appearance is mangy. They don’t have a grand stature or sleek coat. Their ears are too big for their head and their bray is loud and obnoxious. In other words, to most people, a donkey is just that…a donkey. Even the ancient proverbs cast a negative image on the donkey.
· “If one man says to thee, ‘Thou art a donkey’ pay him no heed. If two speak thus, purchase a
· “That which is called firmness in a king is called obstinacy in a donkey.”
· “A worthy man is still worthy even penniless; a donkey is a donkey even if he is finely saddled.”
Several weeks ago my mom called to touch base and to make sure that I was going home for Easter. As we were talking she told me about a conversation she’d had with a friend at church. The conversation went something like this:
Friend: Don’t you have a donkey?Mom: Yes.
Friend: Well, is he a Jesus donkey?
Mom: A what? A Jesus donkey?
Friend: Yes, a Jesus donkey. A Jesus donkey has a cross on his back. Does your donkey have a cross?
Mom: I don’t know. I’ve never looked.
Friend: You should. You need to know if he is a Jesus donkey.
We all know the story of Palm Sunday; Jesus rode into the holy city on the back of a donkey. Christian legend holds that the donkey not only carried Jesus into Jerusalem, but also observed his crucifixion, wishing all the while, that he could carry the burden that Jesus bore to the cross. The legend goes on to explain that God placed the symbol of the cross in the donkey’s fur in recognition of his effort of carrying Jesus into the holy city.
Gus’ sole purpose in life is to be eye candy for my parent’s pasture; but he does have a cross on his back. Gus is a “Jesus donkey.” I had never heard about a “Jesus donkey” before my mom told me the story. But, I’m not surprised to learn that once again, God used the most unlikely creature to carry Jesus into Jerusalem. After all, he used shepherds, the lowest of the lowly to proclaim His birth thirty years earlier.
I’ll be going home for Easter in a few days and for the first time in 25 years I’ll look at Gus as more than an adornment. I’ll take the time to see him in light of his ancestor’s role in the Easter story.get the Easter story. A story of the unlikely. A story of hope and promise for all.
A special thanks to Bill Jones for making me get up off my donkey and write this reflection!