A COLT NOT YET RIDDEN
READ: Luke 19:28-38
“Jesus then sent two of his disciples ahead, saying, ‘Go into the next village, and as you enter it you will find a tethered donkey colt that no one has yet ridden. Untie that colt and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are untying this colt?’ you are to respond, ‘The Master is in need of it.’ The disciples then went and found everything as Jesus had described. So the disciples took the donkey colt to Jesus and after placing their cloaks on its back, they lifted Jesus unto the colt. As Jesus headed out, the people placed their cloaks on the road as a welcoming carpet. And as Jesus neared the gates of Jerusalem, all the disciples began to praise to God in loud voices, praising Him for the all miracles they had seen. They shouted, ‘Blessed is He who is coming as King in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest heavens.'” – Luke 19:30-38
Not long ago, we had a birth here at Greyfriars’ Abbey, yes, a birth. In the stables, our resident Jerusalem donkey, Anna, gave birth to a colt. Oh, donkeys are cute, but little donkeys are beyond cute, they are adorable. After much discussion, we named this furry newcomer, Jeremiah.
The work of a donkey in a modern monastery – even one blessed with a farm – is quite limited. We cast the donkey in our annual Living Nativity, and we walk her down the aisle of the chapel on Palm Sunday. Outside of these responsibilities, the only work Anna did was to be petted by those who walked by and to be set upon by the young children who take field trips now and then to this place filled with its funny old men. I assume Jeremiah will one day share in this work load. Until such time, Jeremiah will just be about work of being cute and growing up.
Now to another time and place. The other day I had the occasion to sit with a young collegian, a young man from Chicago. We met after a class we were taking at Notre Dame. He was a young man considering the priesthood; I was an old man finishing up his vocation as a pastor. You could not help but be aware that this young man was deeply devoted, a man who I like to say, “was gifted with an extra measure of soul-fullness.” He was also a young man quite passionate about dealing with the concerns of the poor and the hungry, I thought that he will surely serve in years to come as an activist for social justice. As we talked, he shared about his frustrations of being but a scholar in the classroom, and how it seemed to be taking forever for him to be used in real-life ministry. Oh, he shared how he volunteered on a scale I thought quite remarkable. But yet,in his appraisal …that was only part-time, a little something to do after hours.
I also noted how impatient he was, possibly, unrealistic, about the time it takes to even bring about the slightest improvement change in society, whether it be our social attitude or our social policy. He was demoralizing himself with what is termed, “a zealot’s guilt“. A zealot’s guilt is a matter of expecting more of yourself than God does expect of you. It is a guilt, that over time will only bring self-defeat. In the closing of our time together, I wanted him to remember what a wise, old pastor once told me years ago at the height of my own youthful and passionate impatience. The old man said to me, “Sometimes we must be as a colt not yet ridden.”
“Sometimes we must be as a colt not yet ridden.” It took me awhile to finally make the connection between the old man’s words and the Palm Sunday story, even longer, to make the the connection between his words and the climate of my soul. When the Lord has need of us – we must be ready. When the Lord has need of us – we must be wiling to do what the Lord has need of us to be doing, not so much what we may think. When the Lord has need of us – however humble the service might be – however far from our own expectations that service might in actuality be – we are called to be there … ready to be untethered, … to be set free …so that we might then serve.
I have often wondered whatever happened to that Palm Sunday donkey … I would not be surprised if he went back to doing what most other donkeys did back then … maybe, when he was older, his work involved … being set upon by children and hearing them laugh. But, whatever the everyday life of that donkey did require of him … there was that one day … when he marched kings.
Brother Anthony of the Cross