Donkeys, Lent, and Holy Week

About 20% of my spontaneous prayers begin with the words, “Lord, I am an ass”. I hope that’s not shocking or offensive — it is, after all, a biblical term — so I figure it’s an okay way to speak to God.

And God knows I don’t mean to be disrespectful when I say these words  to Him — they just seem to me to be the only words that can fully express exactly how I am feeling in the moment.

They are some of the truest prayers I have ever prayed.   And more often than not, I have found myself saying this prayer on a Sunday morning, as I look up at this beautiful stained glass window.

Looking up at this beautiful image of the Lord in his passion often invokes some of my most heartfelt “I’m sorry” prayers.

What is it about Sunday mornings? It should be the holiest day of the week — and yet, it seems to be the one morning where our house tends to be filled with more yelling than usual.  But before I get ahead of myself, I will enlighten you as to the general way things go around our house on a Sunday morning.

Most of us don’t set alarms on a Saturday night. After all, Sunday is a day of rest — setting an alarm just doesn’t feel right to us. Mistake #1.  So we slowly climb out of bed, sip our coffee, and enjoy a slower morning.  Ahh, I love those moments of relaxation.

We used to cook a big breakfast, but it’s hard to enjoy pancakes when you’re aware that you have 10 minutes to scarf them down and run off to get ready for Mass. Hey — if I’m going to consume those calories — you better believe I’m going to enjoy them.  So nice big breakfasts have been moved to after Mass, if we have them at all.

Anyway, as already stated, I don’t usually set the alarm — so I really don’t have time to get ready and pray for half an hour on most Sunday mornings.  But for some reason, I often ignore the natural limits of time and insist I can do it all. 🙁 Mistake #2.

After praying, I go to my closet and try to figure out what to wear.  At this point, the pressure is on and I begin to feel the urgency of finding something that actually looks somewhat put-together and finish getting ready — fast!

Why do I never figure out what I’m going to wear the night before?  No — I prefer to have everybody yelling at me as I try to find something to wear and then jump in the shower at the last minute. 🙁 Mistake #3.

After 20 minutes of total pandemonium which includes screaming things like “Where’s the hair ties?”  “Wheres the baby’s clothes? ” “Whose dressing their little sister?  “Where are those socks I just bought?”  “Where are your pants?”  “No, you can’t wear that skirt.”  “Yes, you have to wear those shoes”.  “Which one of you girls took my shirt?”  “Why is my skirt on your floor?”  etc, etc, etc…we finally make it out the door.

And we jump in our car and my husband drives like a bat out of hell — yes, a bat out of hell, flying off to Mass.  I know, there’s something wrong with that picture.  And I always tell John to slow down and he always reminds me of what a brilliant driver he is — apparently he thinks he belongs in the Indy 500.

Here we are driving like a bat out of hell on our way to church.

And words are said which shouldn’t be said on the way to Mass.  But in our defense, we’re so tightly wound at this point with all the caffeine and rushing and screaming and not knowing where things are and the pressure of our kids not wanting to be late — wherever did they get that trait? — that if we didn’t scream, I think our heads would literally explode.

Needless to say, we are bad at Sunday mornings.  We just are.  And John and I want things to be different — we really do.  And the truth of the matter is that we need to change this routine up, because it just isn’t working for us.

I once heard it said that “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result”. It’s like we become a bunch of insane people on a Sunday morning. We keep starting our Sunday mornings the same exact way and we keep expecting a different result.  Perhaps it’s time to stop the insanity.

And yes, some Sundays are incredibly peaceful and lovely and we arrive early to Mass and there’s only laughter and lovely conversation that goes on in the car.  So I do know peaceful Sundays are not a hopeless cause.

Thank goodness my son serves at Mass. Although we are almost always running late to drop him off, at least we are on time for Mass.  But let’s be honest: it’s not the best way for our family to begin our Mass.  Not ideal at all.

On days like these, I usually run into the church, kneel down, and I look up at Jesus and pray the prayer, “Lord, I am sorry for being such an ass”.   And it perfectly expresses exactly how I feel at that moment — I messed up, again. I gave a bad example to my kids and husband and I feel the weight of it all.

We all have those moments.

This past Sunday was Palm Sunday.  It was one of those crazy Sunday mornings, and I found myself praying that same prayer again. 🙁  Why am I telling you all of this?  Because maybe you feel that way too.  Maybe the weight of your weakness and sin gets you down sometimes too.  Maybe you try and fail and try and fail and are just sick of trying and failing.  Maybe your family is a lot like my own — or maybe not.

But the point is, I used to pray that prayer “Lord, I’m an ass.” and I’d leave it at that. I would sit there and wallow in my own misery, and I now realize that was just my pride that was hurt — I was struggling with the fact that I wasn’t perfect.  And my prayer, though true, wasn’t complete.

As I began to accept the fact that these moments are going to happen — because I’m not perfect — my prayer began to change.  I am no longer shocked at myself for saying or doing the wrong thing.  I know it’s a part of the struggle that will remain within me until my very last breath.

And if I’m being honest with myself, sometimes I am an ass.  And if you’re being honest with yourself, sometimes you are too.

But we can’t stay there in our sin and weakness.  We just can’t.  We are His arms, His feet, His smile and His Love in this world.  He needs us to dust ourselves off and try again.  He has work for us to do.

We are His Hands, His Feet, His Smile, and His Love in the World.

And as I’ve learned to accept the fact that sometimes I am going to fail — despite my best efforts –this prayer has also evolved. It still has the same beginning, but the ending has changed.  God — and definitely, Mary — have gently over time taught me a second part to that prayer.

One day in a quiet church when I was feeling particularly bad about myself. I started to pray and then that verse we just heard on Sunday came to mind.  It’s the part that says “Straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me.” Matt 21:2  

This ass was to bring Jesus into Jerusalem as the people cheered and rejoiced over Him.  I could relate to that donkey on so many levels.  And as I thought about it, the second part of my prayer came spontaneously from my heart, “Lord, I am an ass — but please let me be the ass that carries you into Jerusalem.”

And when I say, “Jerusalem”, I really mean into the whole world — because that is our job, people.  And that is my prayer.

It takes the focus off of myself and brings my focus back on what’s really important: Jesus.  It helps me to quickly say I’m sorry when I’ve behaved poorly, go to confession, and get the strength to carry on like that donkey that carried Jesus into Jerusalem.

It has now become a prayer that focuses on God’s ability to use anybody that is willing to say yes.  That’s it.   None of us are perfect, and now is a perfect time to say you’re sorry and just keep moving forward in service to Him.

And yes, we are called to perfection — but not a perfection of our own making.  We are not called to a perfection of always doing and saying the right thing.  We are called to strive for a perfection of love — that’s the only perfection He asks of us.

And He knows we are going to fail sometimes, but we just need to dust ourselves off and keep trying with God’s grace.  To refuse to get back up and try again is the only sin that is unforgivable — because it is a refusal to accept the grace of the cross.

Let’s not forget that God can bring good out of our sinfulness, if we let Him.  While the sin of Judas caused him to turn in on himself and despair, the sin of Peter led to his greater conversion and eventually made him a Saint.

Let’s dust ourselves off and keep moving forward.

During this Triduum, we have an opportunity to go to Mass and hear about the shortcomings and betrayals of Christ’s disciples and to see ourselves in them.

We have the opportunity to say we’re sorry, to let Christ wash the dust off of our feet, to pray with Him in the garden,  and to stand by the cross in His final agony.  Even if it was an awful Lent, it can be an amazing Triduum.

It’s really in our hands — the prayers we will pray with our lives in these next few days.  Take it from me.  It’s best not to focus too much on “brother ass” as St. Francis liked to say, and instead focus on the mission that even that little ass in the Bible had in bringing Christ to the world.

Yep, it’s the Triduum. Let’s keep trying our best to carry Christ to the world.

Please pray for me and I’ll be praying for you.

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6 thoughts on “Donkeys, Lent, and Holy Week

  1. We must share a brain cause I’m living that Sunday too! Thanks for the wise and true words and mission! Love you, Megan

  2. TKC!

    Thank you so much for your honesty and your insight! Just so you know, you inspire many people including me. Arianna didn’t choose you for her sponsor for nothing! Your kids are so loving and generous, so you’re obviously doing something right. Keep it up!

    God bless you, and thank you!

    1. Adi,
      That’s so sweet! Thanks for those very kind words! You’re the best — and as you know, we think you and your family are pretty special too!
      See you soon!

  3. I love this reflection. I have been thinking about these times in life when I feel like I have “no routine” and then, on closer reflection, I find there is a routine. It just is just no good. St. Josemaria was also fond of the theology of the donkey, so you are in good company Also see this article about the declining appreciation of donkeys When read with a theological lens, it is pretty deep.

    1. Jaime,
      I love those links — especially Jose Maria Escriva’s take on the theology of the donkey. So, so good! Thanks for reading and commenting!

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