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July 9, 2017



Dear Friends:

Today’s reading from Zechariah 9: 9-10 and Matt. 11: 25-30 evoke this wonderful story, shared by bishop Carlos Pellegrin, from the diocese of Chillán, Chile:

Once upon a time, there was a little donkey who lived just outside of Jerusalem. He did what . . . well, I guess what all little donkeys do: carry loads and people, pull merchandise, etc.

One day, a group of strange people came to town. They were not from Jerusalem, from Judea: they were Galileans. They took the little donkey and saddled him with colorful and cushiony blankets. There climbed unto the little donkey’s back a young man, with a serene, joyful countenance, somewhat beclouded by sadness. The little donkey though he heard the name “Jesus” addressed to his rider. Then, they took the little donkey by the bridle, and led him and the young man riding upon him through one of the gates, into the Holy City.

Then the little donkey noticed something awesome: a huge throng of people gathered, with palms and blankets, cheering and applauding in his direction. The little donkey was befuddled. What was going on?

Then, confusion ensued. The little donkey thought all the joyful acclamations and the Hosannas were for him!! Mind you, the poor little donkey was used to being mistreated, overloaded with merchandise and people, perhaps beaten and insulted. This was something unspeakably new! He became so excited that he began prancing and jolting, and almost threw Jesus off into the ground. He had never been acclaimed, praised, with waving fronds and palms, before – ever!!

Then one of the Galilean foreigners came to him, patted him softly, and spoke to him gently: “Now, there, little donkey, these cheers and shouts of joy are not for you. They are for the guy you bear on your back – a prophet mighty in deed and words, called Jesus, from Galilee, from Nazareth!” Disappointed and deflated, but obedient, the little donkey calmed down and trotted, bearing his rider, the true object of all the commotion, into Jerusalem . . . and into oblivion.

The Gospels do not tell us what happened to the little donkey afterwards. We read about Jesus’ last days in Jerusalem: the Last Supper, the Passion, the Resurrection experiences . . . but the little donkey is consigned into historical nothingness. We may guess that he went back to . .  . well, to being a little donkey, to carry people and merchandise, to being abused, insulted and beaten . . . BUT,

He most assuredly never thought of it, but, for one shining moment in those sweltering days of the Jerusalem spring of the year 30, for one luminously splendorous instant, he found himself at the center of human history, humbly, silently, riding into grace, redemption and glory.

I need hardly tell you, dear friends, that “little donkey” is a much less dignified, far less flattering rubric than “missionary disciple,” or “Eucharistic minister,” or “preacher,” or “professor of theology (exegesis, philosophy, whatever).” We would recoil and take offense if anyone, out in the streets, in the classroom or the parish, were to call us “little donkeys.”

But, in light of today’s readings, as we are fed at the table of the Word, that’s all we are called to be, regardless of other ministerial, academic or pastoral titles we may secretly be proud to bear: little donkeys, called by the God, Lord of history, to bear Jesus to others. Like the little donkey of the story, it is entirely possible that parish bulletins, diocesan proclamations, not to mention history books, will never speak of us again.

BUT, Like the little donkey of Bishop Pellegrin’s story, we deliver Jesus into the Holy City of other people’s hearts, especially the Holy Sanctuary of the poor, the hungry, the victims of racism, all the crucified of history, trusting that He whom we bore on our backs, will most definitely call us, as Matthew’s Gospel tells us, to soothe our pain, to kindle hope into our anguishes and despairs, to call us, as the little donkey was, for a few precious moments, to a passionate, vulnerable, risky, liberating communion with He whom we deliver through the gates of all the hurting and broken Jerusalems of the world.

Oremus pro invicem.

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