'Blackie' at our Palm Sunday


It is now becoming a tradition. For the second consecutive year, the Palm Sunday celebration included a donkey. Like last year, "Blackie" (this year's donkey) arrived on Saturday at the bishop's house to be ready for Sunday's celebration. The difference, though, was that this year there was no time for rehearsals because of other appointments.

On Palm Sunday Fr Tim rode the donkey before 9.00 am Mass from the Catholic Centre across the Cathedral. My turn came before 10.30 Mass and the distance was longer as we started at the Salesian school.

More than last year, this year's celebration made me reflect on the biblical passage.

The Gospel does not seem to indicate any serious difficulties when Jesus went into Jerusalem. My case was slightly different. "Blackie" had his own mind and there was little we could do to change it. 

First he decided he would not walk on the tarred road and chose to do it on the grass nearby. Then, suddenly, he stopped. He just stopped. I must confess it was a bit of a difficult moment because the one leading the donkey kept on telling him to move and I just feared the donkey would move but at a very high speed.

It happened last year during the rehearsals. Fr Tim got on the donkey and as soon as he felt untied and saw the gates opened tried to go away (with Fr Tim, of course!).

Fortunately, after a few minutes, Blackie started walking again. People were asked to walk behind him to avoid scaring him. All went well and we safely reached the entrance to the Cathedral. It had a happy ending!

Hope we will continue to do this every year. It helps us reflect on what we are celebrating.

I wonder how Jesus would today go into Jerusalem. I get the feeling that he would still do it on a donkey. First of all as a reminder of the biblical passage: "Say to the daughter of Zion: Look, your king is approaching, humble and riding on a donkey" (Mt 21:5) but also as a challenge to the lifestyle of those of us who have been called to serve in a special way in our Christian churches.

It always puzzles me to see Christian ministers (pastors, prophets, bishops...) who believe they should go around in fancy vehicles with polarised windows and sometimes even bodyguards! They always seem to find a way to justify that they deserve a high lifestyle which should be financed by the people because they pray for them. It is as if the faith of the people in Jesus and their love for their pastors is measured in the amount of money they give to them. Never found a passage in the Gospel to justify it. Nothing in the rest of the New Testament either. Maybe they do.

There is a tendency to think it could not be otherwise because the "dignity of the person" requires it.

I just fear people might believe it is so. Things that sometimes happen to me make me think so.

I normally go around walking. I believe that a number of people do not see me because they cannot picture the bishop walking in town. A woman told me so a couple of years' ago: "Never thought a bishop would move without a vehicle"

Or the time I went around the country visiting some of our Caritas Swaziland projects. Two people came with me to show me the way. After some time one of them shared with me he felt uncomfortable as I was driving them when it should be the other way round... a bishop is driven!

Last week someone shared with me that when people get into places of power they tend to take distance from the ordinary people. Could it be that the same thing happens to Christian ministers? If so, it is true that "power corrupts". It corrupts our Christian identity to say the least.

Jesus went into Jerusalem on a donkey, washed the feet of the apostles and died on a cross. That is what we celebrate these days. That is the dignity we should be witnessing to.

Thank you Blackie. See you next year.


Click HERE for more photos of the day





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Bishop of the Diocese of Manzini (Swaziland)

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