My Hero

From Fr Robert Barron

On this Palm Sunday, I should like to reflect on a King and an ass. A donkey, an ass, was in Jesus time much what it is today: a humble, simple, unassuming little animal, used by very ordinary people to do their work. The wealthy and powerful might own horses or a team of oxen and a political leader might ride a stately steed, but none of them would have anything to do with donkeys.

All of his public career, Jesus had resisted when people called him the Messiah. He sternly ordered them to be silent. When they came to carry him off and make him King, he slipped away. But he is willing to accept these titles precisely at the moment when he rides into Jerusalem on an ass. The Gospel is clear: this is not only an ass; it is a colt, the foal of an ass, on whom no one had ever previously sat. This is a young, inexperienced, unimpressive donkey. And this is the animal upon whom Jesus rides into town in triumph.

This is no ordinary King; this is not the Messiah that they expected.

Now let us look even more closely at the ass. Jesus tells two of his disciples to go into a neighboring town and to find this beast of burden. “If anyone asks, respond, ‘the Master has need of it.'” The humble donkey, pressed into service, is a model of discipleship. Our purpose in life is not to draw attention to ourselves, to have a brilliant career, to aggrandize our egos; rather our purpose is to serve the Master’s need, to cooperate, as he sees fit, with his work.

What was the donkey’s task? He was a Christopher, a Christ-bearer. He carried the Lord into Jerusalem, paving the way for the passion and the redemption of the world. Would anyone have particularly noticed him? Probably not, except perhaps to laugh at this ludicrous animal.

The task of every disciple is just the same: to be a Christopher, a bearer of Christ to the world. Might we be unnoticed in this? Yes. Might we be laughed at? Of course. But the Master has need of us and so we perform our essential task.


About Brother Burrito

A sinner who hopes in God's Mercy, and who cannot stop smiling since realizing that Christ IS the Way , the Truth and the Life. Alleluia!
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  1. toadspittle says:

    I may be being a bit picky here – as often – but I know of nobody who regards the donkey as a “ludicrous animal,” or would think of laughing at one.
    Donkeys have always been regarded with great respect and affection, very much a hard-working part of the family, in many cases.
    A friend of mine has 14. “Son muy nobles,” he says. And he’s right.
    When donkeys show up here, folk come round to admire them. Not the case 2,000 years ago, imagine, but a man on an ass would not be thought to be in any way “odd.”

    Anyway, Christ was surely capable of walking a mile, or so. Healthy young fellow.
    But he needed to donkey to fulfil a prophecy.
    A horse, or a camel – would not have done the trick. Or so I read.


  2. johnhenrycn says:

    Toad: You didn’t smuggle yourself out on the boat to North America to avoid paying support to your second wife soon enough to be acquainted with the old TV series Death Valley Days, but your otherwise forgettable comment reminded me of the 20 Mule Team Borax advert on that show, and how truly noble that beast is. I can’t find a good Youtube of it to share with you.


  3. toadspittle says:

    So quaintly old-fashioned JH! Boat?
    No, Toad arrived in Detroit, via BOAC, labelled as extra baggage. Which he was.
    There was a Tee-shirt on sale in the airport with the slogan, “Detroit – Where The Weak Are Killed And Eaten” – which was disconcerting.
    And my second wife had advanced me the money for my ticket.
    Can’t think why.


  4. reinkat says:

    Great post–and I especially loved the beautiful Coptic icon.


  5. toadspittle says:

    It being Holy Week, Toad doffs his jester’s cap, momentarily(!), and sobers up sufficiently to ask re:
    “His blood be on us, and our children,”
    ….Why should anyone say that? After considerable thought, I don’t believe anyone ever did. Don’t know of course. …But what was to be gained from saying it? What was the point?

    In the quondam days of my nonage, about 1954/5, I remember the Catholic priest charged with my education informing the class that – because the Jews had uttered this extraordinary and self-destructive curse – they deserved everything they had got ever since and would continue to do so until Judgement Day. On their own heads, and all that.
    Of course, if those words had not have appeared in The Good Book, the Romans would be left holding the bag. And we can’t have that. So the sentence has some considerable “value.” It’s not there for nothing.
    But are Catholics obliged to believe it was said by “all,” or, indeed any, Jews at Christ’s trial?


  6. Tom Fisher says:

    But are Catholics obliged to believe it was said by “all,” or, indeed any, Jews at Christ’s trial?

    Pope Benedict XVI dealt with this issue head-on in volume II of his recent work on Jesus of Nazareth. — In fact he got ‘mainstream’ headlines for his emphatic denunciation of anti-Semitic interpretations of that verse. I’ve got a copy somewhere, and I’m happy to type the passage into wordpress when I have time.


  7. toadspittle says:

    Yes, Tom – I do recall reading Benedict on this, and will do so again.
    But did he suggest that those words were never actually spoken?
    I will find out.


  8. Tom Fisher says:

    But did he suggest that those words were never actually spoken?

    Some Catholic commentators have suggested that at that point Matthew’s Gospel is partly (retrospectively) reflecting the resentment that some early Christian communities felt as they became increasingly alienated from mainstream Jewish belief in the latter part of the century.

    As to whether or not you think that an actual crowd, on a particular day in the 30’s of the first century, chose to call down a blood-curse upon themselves, or if perhaps it is a literary artifact; is none of my business.


  9. Tom Fisher says:

    Toad isn’t wrong to raise this issue. There is no point in denying the central fact in all this: Which is that the blood curse in Matthew is profoundly troubling. And it has cost lives. Jews have been murdered by assailants who have used that text as “justification”, and civic authorities have used it too, and indeed national authorities.


  10. kathleen says:

    “His blood be on us, and our children”

    Strong words indeed… that have been ‘the tool’ used (and twisted) to justify the alienation and periodical persecution of Jews for 2000 years. Yet if we take a look at the context in which they were spoken, another light could be thrown on them.

    Jesus is standing at His trial before Pontius Pilate. Pilate knows Jesus is innocent of the charges being thrown at Him by the Sanhendrin, and with a cold fear and premonition creeping over him that something of monumental importance is occurring here, would like to set Jesus free. So Pilate grabs the possibility of doing so by offering Jesus as the victim to be released at the annual Jewish Passover, as custom predicted. It is the hate-filled members of the Sanhendrin, certain Pharisees, high priests, scribes i.e. and not the whole of the Jewish people, who see Jesus as a threat to their authority and power… and who excite their followers to call for the criminal Barabas to be released instead. Not because they have any liking for Barabas of course, but because he was a popular freedom-fighter of the time (we would now call a terrorist), and they knew mention of Barabas would excite the masses to their evil cause.

    By this time they were also getting frustrated and fed up with Pilate’s vacillation over condemning Jesus to death.
    I think that the words: “His blood be on us, and our children, etc.” would be the equivalent in our day and age of something like, “O.K., put the blame on us then, but just get on with it and crucify the Man”.

    Little did they know of the consequences such words would bring their people for ever more!

    Tom – it would be interesting to see what the eminent Pope Benedict XVI had to say about this subject when you find your copy of his book. I don’t have one with me at the moment. 🙂


  11. toadspittle says:

    “I think that the words: “His blood be on us, and our children, etc.” would be the equivalent in our day and age of something like, “O.K., put the blame on us then, but just get on with it and crucify the Man”.”

    If the “bad” Jews had expressed their feelings in the contemporary equivalent of those words, would millions of Jews been murdered, from then on, as a result – or would the perpetrators have successfully ‘isolated’ themselves?
    I don’t know. We can only speculate.
    But the big question remains: Why would anybody deliberately choose to curse themselves to oblivion – if that’s what they actually did – for no apparent reason?
    Makes no sense. Would any of us?
    I think we can be confident of that, at least.
    Did nobody have any control over what was printed, or written down in the Gospels?
    I have a vague suspicion we are avoiding the issue here.
    But, of course, I don’t know. Or ever will.


  12. johnhenrycn says:

    When in Matthew’s account the “whole people” say: “His blood be on us and on our children” (27:25), the Christian will remember that Jesus’ blood speaks a different language from the blood of Abel (Heb 12:24): it does not cry out for vengeance and punishment; it brings reconciliation. It is not poured out against anyone; it is poured out for many, for all. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God . . . God put [Jesus] forward as an expiation by his blood” (Rom 3:23, 25). Just as Caiaphas’ words about the need for Jesus’ death have to be read in an entirely new light from the perspective of faith, the same applies to Matthew’s reference to blood: read in the light of faith, it means that we all stand in need of the purifying power of love which is his blood. These words are not a curse, but rather redemption, salvation. Only when understood in terms of the theology of the Last Supper and the Cross, drawn from the whole of the New Testament, does this verse from Matthew’s Gospel take on its correct meaning.

    Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week, Benedict XVI, pg. 187, 1st English edition (P.J. Whitmore, trans.) Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 2011.


  13. toadspittle says:

    “These words are not a curse, “
    Skilful advocacy here, quoted by JH.
    It may be true.
    However, the words have been, and still are, taken as a curse and used that way – and have caused considerable mischief over the last two thousand years.
    In fact, it’s hard to think of any handful of words that has caused more, though perhaps someone else can.


  14. johnhenrycn says:

    “In fact, it’s hard to think of any handful of words that has caused more [mischief] though perhaps someone can.

    “Liberté, égalité, fraternité”, attributed to Robespierre.
    “De chacun selon ses facultés, à chacun selon ses besoins”, attributed to Louis Blanc, (another bloody frog amphibian).
    “Love is a single soul inhabiting two bodies”, attributed to yet a third amphibian in a letter to his 2nd wife, but by some other authorities to G.K. Chesterton.


  15. toadspittle says:

    Do you regard the French Revolution as worse than the pogroms throughout history and the Holocaust of Hitler, then JH? Might be, I suppose.

    Chesterton was a single soul inhabiting the gross equivalent of two bodies, certainly.


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