Today 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!