Yesterday I shared a little bit about a prayer that I find myself praying on a regular basis. The prayer goes a little bit like, “Lord I’m an ass — but please let me be the ass that carries you into Jerusalem.” To understand where the inspiration for this prayer came from, read more about it here.
But there is a part two to the story of the donkey. I have always been puzzled by that second donkey in the scripture, “Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.” Matt 21:5 KJV.
I was always bewildered by the concept of Jesus riding two donkeys into Jerusalem — I mean, how is that possible? I used to envision an awkward entrance into Jerusalem simultaneously on two donkeys.
It turns out that I’m not the only one who was puzzled by this notion. Apparently, well-established theologians in the Catholic world have also dived deep into the mystery of the two donkeys.
Take this post by Taylor Marshall, for example. His explanation was a good start, and I found one of the comments just below his post to be very enlightening. A guy named Jeremy shared a quote from a Bible commentary. Maybe this is only interesting to me, but I just have to share:
“Clearly the key to the problem lies in the fact that an unbroken colt (note Mark 11:2, “upon which no one had sat,” which is known to Matthew although omitted by him) was usually introduced into service while accompanied by its parent…And the tumult with which Jesus would enter Jerusalem would make such accompaniment all the more necessary.”
—Hagner, Donald A. Matthew 14–28. Vol. 33B. Word Biblical Commentary. Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1998, p. 594.
But why does this even matter? Why do I care so much about a little donkey and it’s mother?
What first seemed like an inconsequential detail has really become the theme of my Holy Week. I’ve been sitting here this Holy Week just thinking about that little donkey — and if you read yesterday’s post, you know I see myself in that little ass of a donkey on so many levels.
There was a second donkey in that Gospel narrative, and that comment in that com-box finally helped me put all of the pieces together — after 30 years of wondering. In my defense, I was a little busy with life — so I never took the time to solve the puzzle until this week.
The part that strikes me the most this Holy Week is that the little donkey needed it’s mom to lead it through Jerusalem. I mean, who doesn’t need a mom? We all have one, or we wouldn’t be here right now.
But God didn’t just stop with our biological moms. He knew we’d need guidance in this crazy life of ours — so he gave us a mom who could help us along this journey back to Him. Think about it, at the pinnacle of the Redemption — from the very cross — Jesus took the time to give us a mom.
He had very few words for us from that cross — so whatever He said in those last few hours is worth paying attention to. Jesus literally had to push up on his open wounds in his feet and hands to catch a solid breath to speak — can you imagine that pain? I have stubbed a toe and split a toenail and thought I’d pass out with the pain this is far, far worse than that.
Why would he go through all that pain — and why would it be recounted in the Gospels — if it wasn’t deeply important?
John lays it all out in his Gospel. “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. John 19:26-27
If we want to be one of Jesus’ beloved disciples than we need to take His words to heart. Jesus wants us to take Mary into the home of our heart.
And this isn’t goddess worship. This is us — stubborn asses that we are — needing a mother to lead us. God has given us His mother. By the way, she was entrusted with raising the Son of God and guiding Him in a way that only a mother can guide a son.
God didn’t need to have a mother, but He chose to have a mother — and if she’s good enough for Him, you better believe she’s more than good enough for you and me! So what are you waiting for? Come to think of it, what am I waiting for?
I’m writing all of this because there was a point in my life when I didn’t see Mary as my mother. I went to a very Anti-Catholic Protestant School — everybody knew we were the only Catholics — talk about awkward. They were always saying things like, “Catholics worship the Pope” and “Catholics think Mary is a goddess” and “Catholics commit idolatry” .
After a while, it made me question my faith and I even resolved to God to convert to Protestantism when I was an adult. Anyway, I had been convinced by my teachers, amongst other things, that it was wrong to pray the rosary — and so I began to refuse to say the Rosary on Sunday evenings with the family.
I just did my best Milli-Vanilli impersonation (too soon?) and lip-synced the entire rosary, so as to escape the notice of my parents. I remember praying a simple prayer, “Lord, I don’t think I should be saying the Rosary — but if I’m wrong please let me know”.
Simple enough prayer for a ten year old. And I just kept lip-syncing that Rosary for the next few weeks. And then one day on the way to school, I just thought about that verse from John 19.
And it just all clicked. “Oh, Jesus told the beloved disciple to take Mary into his home. If I want to be one of His beloved disciples, than I need to do the same thing.”
Thank you Holy Spirit. And I have never looked back.
That being said, I still have my struggles with Mary and growing close to her, but she knows I’m trying. One day I look forward to being best of friends in Heaven. Until that day, I’m slowly getting to know her.
By the way, I bet you Mary is hilariously funny — nobody every depicts her as that — but I bet you she is. I am looking forward to knowing that side of her in heaven.
But back to that little ass in the Bible. That donkey needed it’s mother to help it to remain calm in the midst of the chaos of the screaming and cheering and pushing surrounding that little donkey as it processed into Jerusalem.
What parent among us doesn’t experience chaos like that on a regular basis? I know I do. I know that my job as a mother is to remain calm in the midst of the chaos — but sometimes I want to run, scream, kick and do any other number of stupid things that come quite naturally to me when I’m feeling the pressure of life.
We need Mary to guide us, as only a mother can. And we can try to do it alone, but why would we? Why do it alone when we have a mother who loves us and knows the quickest and surest way to her Son.
Don’t be afraid to take Mary into your home — I can guarantee that she’ll only bring you closer to the Heart of her Son.
P.S. One way to get closer to Mary during the Triduum is to meditate on her 7 sorrows, as made popular by St. Bridget. It can be very powerful. Mary suffered alongside her Son — any mother gets how excruciating it would be to see your baby suffer so much. Try to walk alongside Mary, as she walks alongside her Son in His Passion — she just might teach you a thing or two about what Jesus suffered.
To learn more about meditating on her sorrows, consider visiting this site, printing it out, and bringing it to Church with you during your prayer time this Triduum.
P.P.S. As an aside, I wish I could direct you to a site that didn’t seem so antiquated — because devotion to Mary is anything but outdated. Perhaps if you’re reading this and have some graphic design skills — maybe you can come up with something a little less off-putting to people with more modern sensibilities? Nothing wrong with a bit more attractive presentation, right? Not my skill-set but please somebody out there — help!