Today I bring you this reworking of a post from 5 years ago… The Donkey is a poem by G.K. Chesterton. It is a reminder of the place in our lives of faith that are occupied by donkeys and dreams. What donkeys, you might ask? What dreams? Just think – donkey! Yes, a donkey – not the most noble of creatures in the kingdom, is it. Ah, the humility of the lowly animal that carried the Lord Jesus on its back, as the people flung and waved their palm branches, shouting, “Hosanna! Hosanna!”
Also our dreams, our individual dreams and our collective ones. What collective dreams, you wonder out loud. The ones we share as people of faith following Christ, the dreams we dream whether or not we are cognizant of them or not. We should try to remember the need to be mindful of, and listen to our dreams, no matter where they may lead us.
Remember that this donkey, which is called a colt in the Scriptures, is but a donkey. This animal is also known as an ass, simply meant for carting and carrying goods. Such a lowly creature, a humble one, carrying the Lord Jesus, himself always humble. Remember also the role that dreams played in getting Jesus onto that donkey. Jacob’s dreams, and Joseph’s dreams, Daniel’s dreams, and more recently dreams of another Joseph, known as the earthly father of Jesus. Dreams matter, although like donkeys they are often not given the respect or attention that may be due to them.
Remember the donkey that ferried Mary to Bethlehem. Another donkey was probably was pressed into service when Joseph, Mary and the child Jesus fled from Herod’s clutch. And yet another likely brought them back to Nazareth from Egypt, after Joseph was informed in that dream, that it was safe to return. Remember that donkeys and dreams matter.
Unlike the return from Egypt, this time it was not safe for Jesus to return to Jerusalem. In the end Jesus knew that he had to go. He prays that all of this might pass, a reminder of his complete humanity. It does not pass and he goes anyway, a reminder of his complete divinity.
So remember that lowly creature that carried Jesus on its back, as the people flung and waved palm branches, shouting, “Hosanna! Hosanna!” Ah, the need to be mindful of, and listen to our dreams, no matter where they may lead. The reality is that we are all headed to the Cross, whether we like it or not, accept it or not, believe it or not.
Our dreams should compel us, as they compelled so many, to follow God. To follow God, is to follow the reality that Jesus to Jerusalem, where certain death awaits. A death that is necessary, a death that leads to new life – for Jesus and for all of us – but only if we agree to go. And only if we agree to die. Yeah, that part sucks, right? We can’t earn this one, we just have to get up and go. Go. Now. We can’t buy this one, we just have to go. Yes – go. Go now. All the accomplishment in the world won’t get us there. Just the donkey, just the dream – well really, the donkey and the dream as they work with our destiny – and our faith.
The Donkey by G. K. Chesterton : The Poetry Foundation.
Source: The Collected Poems of G. K. Chesterton (Dodd Mead & Company, 1927)
I could not help but add this song, one that says it all for me. Here is Jerusalem, My Destiny. It is written by Rory Cooney, with this video from the Church of St. Francis Xavier in New York City.
Have never come across this poem before and I was taken in from the first! I’m reminded, thinking of the donkey, of the way that each of us ‘carries’ stories (or, dreams, as you alliteratively note – lovely!). I was also reminded of Jeanette Winterson’s little Christmas story, http://www.jeanettewinterson.com/the-lion-the-unicorn-and-me/ featuring a donkey. Blessings on your Holy Week!