The ninth hour had already passed, and the sun still beat strongly upon the village of Bethphage, situated on the outskirts of Bethany. The entire region was in the grip of drought and famine…
The sons of the honest farmer, Bartholomew, were busy storing the hay in the barn and grinding the wheat that they had worked so hard to grow that year. Mark, the youngest of the family, had the task of delivering the flour to buyers. He used to sing psalms as he merrily loaded his little donkey with the sacks.
The donkey was a young and sturdy colt, who had never been mounted by anyone. He obeyed faithfully and did his very best to carry even the heaviest loads.
That evening, the poor donkey was quite tired… After enjoying a well-deserved measure of feed and some water, he was just about to rest for the next day’s labour.
“Goodness me! What a day! Lots of heavy loads to carry, donkey boy? What a hard life you have!” said the chatty hen.
“Yes ma’am! Am I ever tired!…”
No sooner had he finished the phrase than he felt the earth tremor beneath his hooves. A thick cloud of dust began to rise and Mama Hen cried out in despair:
“It must be the end of the world! I must hurry to gather all my little chicks under my wings! Farewell!”
As she darted off, the donkey colt dug his hooves into the ground, held his breath, shut his eyes tight and braced himself for whatever was about to happen. Then he heard a bellowing voice ring out:
A large troop, marching down the road in perfect step, had just stopped in straight files right in front of Bartholomew’s house. When the dust settled, the donkey dared to open his eyes to see whether the world had actually ended… He was astonished to find what appeared to be a Roman legion on its way to Jerusalem. Amid that multitude of soldiers, he spotted some chariots pulled by strong and beautiful horses.
The young donkey tied to a post said to himself:
“Wow! What an honour it must be to pull those carts that carry such high war officials! That commander looks so distinguished. What an important man! The Jewish folk all step aside to let him pass. Oh, how magnificent!”
Then, after a deep sigh, he mused:
“Ah! If I were only a horse… And here I am, as much a donkey as ever. But God wanted it this way!”
That night, the poor creature dreamed about the glories of being a noble steed.
At the break of dawn, Mark took him out again to deliver flour-sacks. As he lumbered along, the donkey heard the sound of fifes and drums. A short while later, he caught sight of a group of oriental merchants. They had dozens of camels wearing rich trappings and laden with precious wares. The group filed past the lowly little donkey, who exclaimed in wonderment:
“Just look at those camels! Look how elegantly they are dressed! Their harnesses are made of gold and silver… How marvellous! They remind me of the ones my grandmother used to tell us about, mounted by three wise gentlemen from the East some thirty years ago! Ah, if only I, too, could be ridden by wealthy oriental merchants wearing colourful robes and turbans, transporting rare stones and fine silks! But here I am, tied to this post…
Lost in thought, the donkey pondered:
“O my God and my Creator, how I would like to do something truly grand in my life! But I was born an ordinary donkey. May Thy will be done!”
And he carried on with his daily labour.
Later on, when he was finished his work for the day, there he was again, tied to the post by the door. But this time, two men suddenly walked up and begin to untie his rope without the slightest explanation.
“Oh dear, what is going to become of me now? Perhaps these people are so hungry that they’ve decided to eat donkey meat. If you’re hungry enough, you could even make a meal of the likes of me! What am I to do?”
Then he sighed and added:
“May the will of God be done!!
When Mark, a short way off, saw the men about to take his beloved pack animal, he ran to stop them. But when he asked them why they were untying the colt, their mysterious response somehow set him at ease:
“The Lord has need of him right now, but will soon bring him back.”
Without any objection, Mark let them take the donkey, who allowed himself to be led away with quiet resignation.
After plodding a certain distance, he was brought to a stop before an imposing Man with a kindly manner. He opened his eyes wider for a better look and perked his long ears.
“This man is far superior to those Roman officials, and has no similarity with those merchants on top of those camels. Actually, I have never seen anyone quite like Him!”
To the donkey’s surprise, some people laid their cloaks on his back, and the man mounted him. It did not take long for the donkey to realize that he was being ridden by Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah awaited for centuries.
His heart began to beat faster… One of the men of that retinue began to gently pull his rope in whatever direction the Master indicated. The little donkey felt more noble than any spirited steed!
When they reached the gates of Jerusalem, they were met by a great crowd of people from all walks of life who were awaiting them anxiously. Some laid palm branches on the road; others waved them in the air to hail Jesus. They also spread their cloaks along the way so that the humble donkey might step on them.
“Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”
As the capes and fine textiles were extended on the ground ahead of him, the donkey felt a thrill. But he knew that the glory was not his, but belonged to the Redeemer seated upon him.
When the procession finished, Our Lord dismounted and entered the Temple. At the day’s end, the donkey was returned to his owner, who once again tied him to the post. The rest of his life revolved around that one day of glory. He was the happiest animal in the world, for he had received the grace of bearing on his back the King of the universe. ◊