Palm Sunday Reflection 2009
Bishop Glen John Provost
Bishop of Lake Charles
Palm Sunday, April 5, 2009
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception

“See, your king comes, seated upon an ass’s colt.” John 12:15

Why does Jesus enter seated on an ass’s colt?  The horse in the ancient world was the symbol of war.  Great armies and chariots went out to war mobilized by horses.  The ass’s colt is a dramatic symbol of peace.  The king enters to the shouts of “Hosanna” seated on a donkey because He is the king of peace.

In being the king of peace, Jesus enters in humility.  His power as king, his majesty and his dominion, are all represented by the donkey, a sign of humility.  Jesus is humbly accepting His Father’s will to suffer and to die.  “This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again” (John 10:17).  This is the real power of Jesus.  The real power to lay down one’s life and to take it up again is the power found in humility, and this is why the Father loves Him.

I am reminded of what St. Catherine of Siena wrote.  In the Book of Exodus, God had identified himself to Moses as “I am He who is.”  And St. Catherine writes that in prayer, the Lord said to her:  “Do you know, my daughter, who you are and who I am?  You are she who is not, I am He who is.”  In the life of the Christian there comes a time in our relationship with God where to make progress in the spiritual life one must admit that one is nothing before God.  He is everything, and in my nothingness, He must fill me with what He is. 

It is Jesus who teaches us this lesson also.  He, who is the Son of God, the Messiah and King, enters Jerusalem, the city of Peace, seated on an ass’s colt to teach us this lesson of humility.  His real power, His kingly presence, is one of acknowledging His humble acceptance of the Father’s will that He suffer, die and rise.

This lesson of true power coming from humility is so contrary to what the world teaches that it takes a donkey to remind us of it.  I love the little poem by G. K. Chesterton to the donkey of Palm Sunday:

    When fishes flew and forests walked
        And figs grew upon thron,
    Some moment when the moon was blood
        Then surely I was born.

    With monstrous head and sickening cry
        And ears like errant wings,
    The devil’s walking parody
        On all four-footed things.

    The tattered outlaw of the earth,
        Of ancient crooked will,
    Starve, scourge, deride me:  I am dumb.
        I keep my secret still.

    Fools!  For I also had my hour,
        One far fierce hour and sweet,
    There was a shout about my ears,
        And palms before my feet.

“The devil’s walking parody” was made the sign of humility to carry the King to His victory.  It is thus that God confounds the wisdom of the world.