Tag Archives: catechists

The tamed ass of Palm Sunday

JesusDonkeyPalmToday I led a workshop for the catechists in Zone 4 of the parish. I do like this zone a lot because there are many catechists who have caught our vision of participative catechesis, that helps the children and youth encounter Christ – and not just memorize “facts” about the faith.

I decided to spend part of the time on helping the catechists develop new ways to use the Bible in their classes. I was in for a surprise – and a lesson.

I decided to use the Gospel accounts of the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem in a communal Ignatian contemplation approach, promoting the use of the imagination. Before we started I explained the use of our senses in imaginatively encountering Christ in the Gospels.

I read three accounts of the events of Palm Sunday, starting with Luke 19: 29-40, followed by Mark and Matthew – leaving time between the readings for prayer and imaginative contemplation. After the last period of silence, I invited them to share what it meant to them in groups of two or three. Then I opened up the prayer to sharing in the group.

Two young men had noted something that I had barely noticed. In Luke’s Gospel, the disciples are told they will find a donkey, a filly, a young ass – πῶλον, “on which no one has ever sat.”

They told me how they were first afraid – as Jesus was about to mount the donkey. If no one has ever mounted a donkey, the donkey will be very frisky and will try to throw the person off. It needs to be broken in before one can safely ride on a young filly. It is dangerous to try to ride on a donkey on which no one has ever sat. You need to get someone to break in the burro before you can ride it or use it to carry burdens.

They found themselves afraid for Jesus.

But then Jesus mounted the donkey and it was as gentle as could be – even carrying him over palms and mantles, in the midst of a noisy crowd, crying out “Hosanna!”

They were amazed.

I was amazed at this incredible insight that most of us who read the scriptures never notice. Jesus rides on a donkey that has not been broken in. In fact, in his gentleness he tames the beast.

Later I spoke with the two men and we reflected that in the Garden of Eden the animals were tame. But when sin comes into the world, we have situations in which donkeys will try to unseat anyone who tries to sit on them. But Jesus, restoring creation to its state of peace before the fall, can sit on this beast that has become tame.

Jesus tames us with his gentleness. He restores peace with his presence.

Later in the workshop I had the catechists break into three groups and work on the Palm Sunday story in three ways – drawings, retelling the story in their own words, and drama.

I ended up making an ass of myself in the drama!


Significantly I ended the workshop with Matthew 11: 25-30 that begins with this verse:

I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned, but revealed them to the simple people.


Am I graced!

Saint Paul’s sense of humor

I would never have realized that St. Paul had a sense of humor until I facilitated a workshop for catechists in the remote village of Agua Buena, Concepción, yesterday.

There were nineteen of us and I was using an activity to help the people understand the Church as the Body of Christ in the world, an activity they could use with confirmation candidates.

After they shared some ideas they had of the church, we talked a bit about the Church as the Body of Christ and we read 1 Corinthians 12: 12-13.

Then, I wanted them to draw a body on some sheets of papers I had. Nobody wanted to and so I had one of the guys lay on the paper and I drew around him. Then I asked them to write the names of the different parts of the body.


I had to do a little prompting and so we added rectum and sexual organs.

I had done this activity with two other groups last week, but this group added a part that neither group had before – breasts!

Then I had them read 1 Corinthians 12: 14-26.

As they read verse 17, I heard a few snickers:

If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?

Somehow they had gotten the image of a body that was only an eye or an ear. And it was funny.

We talked a bit and I shared how they had helped me see the humor in Saint Paul. What would a body look if it was only an ear?

That’s ridiculous, absurd, funny – and tragic.

We talked about how we need all the parts of the body and if we lack one something is missing.

Then, after reading verse 27 (“Now you are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it.”), I had them write their names or a symbol of themselves near the part of the body of Christ that they were.


To close I read St. Teresa of Avila’s prayer:

 Christ has no body on earth but yours;
no hands on earth but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which Christ looks out
with compassion on the world.
Yours are the feet with which he chooses
to go about doing good.

Today, while writing this entry I remembered a portion of a painting I saw in a Berlin art gallery in November 2006. The antithesis of Paul’s image of the Body of Christ, sorely tragic: