Happy Palm Sunday!
This is the day where we, as a congregation, begin the mass by singing Hosannas and welcoming in Jesus! It’s quite an exciting time for all. My church started off in the Catholic school’s gym for the part with the palms and then parading across the street and packing the pews. It was quite a neat experience!
For those of you who were busy keeping track of your children to make sure they didn’t run off while the whole congregation was processing with palms to the church (guilty), here is the gospel that preceded the mass:
1When they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples 2and said to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately on entering it, you will find a colt tethered on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it here. 3If anyone should say to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ reply, ‘The Master has need of it and will send it back here at once.’” 4So they went off and found a colt tethered at a gate outside on the street, and they untied it. 5Some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” 6They answered them just as Jesus had told them to, and they permitted them to do it. 7So they brought the colt to Jesus and put their cloaks over it. And he sat on it. 8Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. 9Those preceding him as well as those following kept crying out:“Hosanna!Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!10Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is to come!Hosanna in the highest!”
There are a lot of things to say about Palm Sunday… it is the day that we read through the Passion narrative and contemplate how the mob that greeted Jesus with Hosannas soon turned to cries of “Crucify Him!” later on. But! For today, I would like to focus on another unsung hero and Christ’s unlikely sidekick of the day… the donkey.
The inimitable G.K. Chesterton once wrote this short poem about the donkey:
By G.K. Chesterton
When fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn,
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-footed things.
The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.
Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.
Not only is there poetry about this creature, but there is art depicting this unlikely pairing of Christ, the King of Kings, and this simple donkey colt! Check out this artwork!
I have to admit… I have a soft spot for Giotto’s depictions of donkeys. He draws them in such a way that really brings out their comical side… honestly, it looks like they’re smiling. Which is entirely appropriate, as donkeys are quite intelligent and mischievous creatures with a wicked sense of humor! And, you know how they’re commonly depicted as being stubborn? I can confirm that this depiction is entirely correct!
But something about donkeys might escape our modern minds completely… they are stubborn and it takes a while to train them to do anything. And, if they don’t want to do something? They are quite happy to kick you off! In fact, that’s true for horses as well. Horses and donkeys both need to be trained to carry humans, otherwise the animal will be more than happy to kick off the human who dares to ride it.
Which makes it that much more incredible that Jesus was able to ride into Jerusalem in the first place… especially on a colt that had never been ridden on before. Yes, Jesus had cured many people and even raised the dead… but to be able to ride in on an untrained donkey? That’s a miracle in itself!
Which just reminds even more that this grand entrance into Jerusalem was more than just a mere parade… truly, Jesus was entirely correct when this exchange between Him and the Pharisees occurred at this time, as recorded in another gospel:
39Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” 40He said in reply, “I tell you, if they keep silent, the stones will cry out!”
Jesus is indeed the master of all creation and, at this moment when He enters into Jerusalem, He is clearly recognized as such by all of creation — even by a simple donkey!
May we recognize You as our master everyday and may we submit to Your Will as easily as this donkey did.
This artwork was almost featured in my book, The Sorrowful Mysteries, which pairs religious artwork of the Sorrowful Mysteries with the prayers of the Rosary! To take a peek at the book or buy it, click here!