Participating in community “unties” us to become something greater … selfishness keeps us tied up & frustrated
Now and then, we all forget that people might misinterpret our actions. We can put these misunderstandings down to “getting to know someone”.
However, there are some signs which cannot be misunderstood, actions which definitely say something, positive or negative, based on our culture. Palm Sunday always has a short Gospel at the beginning and both the Gospels of John and Mark talk about Jesus on a “colt”.
Do you know what that really signified? Or was it just a matter of convenience because the Uber drivers were on strike? Perhaps most of you know already, but in case there are other slow learners around like me, let me share some historical info. prepared by Kat Cendana.
Jesus rode a donkey for three reasons. The first one is to fulfil the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9, making his triumphant entry on a donkey. When horses are mentioned in the Bible they are almost always in relation to kings and war, while donkeys are mentioned in relation to common people. Smaller than horses and gifted with cautiousness, that can sometimes be mistaken for stubbornness, donkeys were not usually used during times of war.
Second, in the ancient Biblical world, a leader rode on a horse if he was coming in war and a donkey to signify peace.
Third, Jesus used the donkey to connect with the common people. Life was also not easy for a Jew living under Roman rule in the 1st century—more so for the poor. But Jesus embraced the poor and sick people during his time here on earth. His choice of a donkey instead of a horse was God’s way of saying that He came as a king who will serve and save the oppressed. https://amazingbibletimeline.com/blog/why-did-christ-ride-a-donkey-on-his-triumphant-entry/
So, even approaching rejection, suffering and death, Jesus is still teaching us: more so because, despite the pressure on Himself, He still treated people gently and with respect.
How are we when we are under stress, under pressure, etc.? Do we get angry, self-centred and ignore the needs of others? Perhaps, this Holy Week we can focus on whether we create situations of stress for ourselves, for example: due to our poor preparation (like the foolish virgins and lack of oil), or neglecting things we should do daily until they become a crisis (=laziness).
But, wait, there’s more… Alan Rudnick, focuses on the issue of the colt being tied up so it cannot run away (Luke mentions it 5 times in 5 verses). But then it is released and given a task. https://www.baylor.edu/content/services/document.php/193175.pdf
Where are we still tied up, and what is tying us up? Is it fear of failure? Fear of rejection? I still remember the dances when we were teenagers and our boys school organized a social event with the nearby girls school: boys ended up on up on one side of the room and girls on the other side. It required a lot of courage to walk over and ask one of them if they would like to dance!
Now, what about making friends and socializing as an adult? What about travelling far from home for a job? What about taking a job that is “beneath my dignity”?
And, perhaps more importantly, is it shame or guilt that keeps us downcast, tired and afraid? Holy Week reveals how God can transform our shame and guilt into something positive, if only we have courage to talk, to confess, or ask for forgiveness: let’s imitate Jesus’ humility & trust.
Perhaps the donkey challenges us to ask: do we see ourselves as a powerful horse coming to conquer others, or as a humble donkey ready to work hard with others?
I understand, in one of our parishes, that a group of youth were asked to contribute US$0.50/month. They all said it was too difficult. So, the offer was made that they come to the parish once a month and do some work and the 50 would be paid for each member. Only 9 out of 15 members agreed they would do it. I pity the other 6 members because it means they are still tied up and unable to do, to be, the men and women God has formed them to be.
What might happen if the youth came and did community service as their contribution to the group: firstly, they would be exposed to the admiration of the community;
secondly, they would be recognised, and thereby be selected for something greater; thirdly, they could feel proud of themselves and they have enhanced their dignity;
fourthly, they could learn some new skills which will make them more attractive to employers; fifth, they can add to their resume and show potential employers they have community spirit/ initiative.
Palm Sunday symbolises the day when we can imitate the young donkey and allow ourselves to be available for the “work” of God (=love): work that always enhances us, even as it empowers others.
The Second Reading says: “…he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave.” It doesn’t sound very exciting, but look at the result: a glorious resurrection! Humility and hard work always pays off. Blessed Holy Week to you all.
By Gerard Conlan, OMI