Reflection for the Donkathon
“You shall not covet your neighbour’s…..ox or donkey.” The Tenth Commandment,
“Go the village ahead of you and you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me.” Jesus, in Matthew 21:1-11.
“We waved farewell to our friends and set off en route. Very soon we passed beautiful green pastures….we have experienced so much love, kindness, generosity and positive support.” Polly Vacher, driver.
Today is the feast day of St James, when Santiago de Compostela will be the focus for many pilgrims journeying along the Camino, the Way, to the saint’s shrine there.
Making their way along their own Camino to the shrine here at Pennant Melangell are Wizard and Muffin, two donkeys who are travelling with their equine friend, Nelson the poodle, owners, grooms and supporters in aid of Multiple Sclerosis research. This entire venture has been the culmination of much planning and had to be postponed last year due to the pandemic. Many differing things have been encountered along the way as can be seen on Donkathon.org – how good it will be to welcome them here today after a journey of such courage and achievement!
Polly writes in her daily blog of green pastures but the idea came from a difficult time when unsuccessful eye surgery meant she could no longer fly. For a pilot who had flown solo twice around the world, including over the North Pole and the Antarctic, and raised over £500,000 for the charity ‘Flying scholarships for disabled people’, this was a severe blow. Her nephew also having MS, as Polly sought another challenge she received a card from St Melangell’s with the Bible verse “They shall rise on wings like eagles” – Donkathon evolved from this time and what a difference will be made to all involved and to MS research.
Donkeys are mentioned many times in the Bible and their inclusion in the tenth commandment shows how much they were valued as work animals used for transport, agricultural purposes and as beasts of burden. To appease his brother Esau, Jacob sent him twenty female donkeys and ten donkey foals as part of a gift (Genesis 32:5) and his sons travelled with donkeys to Egypt to obtain grain during a great famine (Gen. 42:26). Moses uses a donkey to help his family to cross the desert (Exodus 4:20) and Balaam’s ass actually speaks to him when he beats her for refusing to move three times due to the angel in her path that he can’t see (Numbers 22:23). Whatever you might think of a talking donkey (what would Wizard and Muffin say about their journey?!) at one point Balaam appropriately replies, “Nay!”
In the New Testament, tradition suggests that a donkey was used by Mary and Joseph on the way to Bethlehem and for the Flight into Egypt. Nativity scenes always feature a donkey and the Good Samaritan used a donkey to carry the injured but, knowing how much time – and ginger nuts! – have gone into training for the Donkathon, I now see the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday very differently.
It was prophesied in the Old Testament that the Messiah would enter Jerusalem in a lowly and peaceful manner (Zechariah 9:9) and this was in contrast to leaders who usually entered on a stallion, the symbol of power and wealth. On Palm Sunday, the crowds were cheering as Jesus entered and there would have been a lot of noise as they also jostled, pulled palm branches and laid cloaks down for the donkey and her foal to walk over. That would test an experienced donkey – but her untrained foal might have found that terrifying and shied away or bucked. Having never given that a thought before, perhaps it was a good indication of Jesus’ gentleness and reassuring care as well as the foal’s mother being with it and the courage of the animal itself that meant the entry was safely negotiated!
What an amazing creature the donkey is and what service it’s given to humanity. Lives and thoughts changed by a Donkathon – thanks be to God!
With my prayers; pob bendith,