Tag: Revd Canon Joyce Smith

Benji the donkey

The Story Of The Palm Sunday Donkey by Joyce Smith

It promised to be a hot and sunny day as the early morning sunlight played on the little donkey’s face. Benji lazily opened first one eye and then the other, but although the sunshine was warm on his face, he shivered a little and huddled closer to his mother.  It was, after all, only yesterday that he had seen the old donkey who lived along the road being cruelly beaten by his master.
Benji’s mother gently nuzzled her son’s face and slowly licked one long ear followed by the other. Then, at the sound of their master’s voice, they trotted over to the edge of their field and had a long drink from the bucket of water he had brought for them, before turning to munch the hay which was piled up in the corner.

Even though their master was a kind man, Benji was still very frightened of the world outside his field and the scar on his mother’s back would always remind him of how cruel some people could be even to a donkey who had done nothing wrong. Sometimes, as Benji watched his mother carrying a person down the hill to the big city of Jerusalem, he could almost feel the pain of her scar and he longed to do something to help her. But the trouble was, whenever anybody asked for a ride on Benji, he was so frightened that he would begin to shake all over and no one wanted to ride him when he was like that. And so, in his short life, nobody had ever ridden on Benji’s back. But perhaps, just perhaps, today would be different……….

When Benji and his mother had finished eating, their master returned and, as he gently tickled their ears, he began to speak softly to them:

‘There will be lots of people going down to Jerusalem today
to celebrate the Feast of the Passover’ he said ‘and I think that
someone will need you to carry him today,  Benji, so I’m going
to get you both ready and I want you to stand quietly for me by
the house.’

Then, using a long length of rope so that the donkeys could still graze from the grass, their master tied them to the trunk of a tree and they began to wait to see who might come by.  They hadn’t been waiting long, however, when two men hurried towards the donkeys and, turning to their owner they said:

‘The Lord needs them’‘
That’s just fine’  said their master and as he untied Benji and his mother he whispered in their ears,
‘today will be your special day.’

The two men led the donkeys to the end of a dusty path and as they stood there, waiting, Benji turned his head and from where he was standing he could see right to the bottom of the big hill and all of the city of Jerusalem surrounded by big stone walls and lots of people, who looked as small as ants, hurrying around. Just then Benji’s gaze was arrested by a pile of rubbish outside the walls of the city and he began to tremble. He had often seen donkeys carrying rotting rubbish down to the tip and, sometimes, his mother told him, bad people were hung on crosses and killed there.  At that thought, Benji shook even more, but just as he was beginning to feel so weak that he thought he would fall over, he felt a hand on his head and a gentle voice saying:

‘Not today, little donkey, not today; the rubbish tip’s not for today.
Don’t be afraid little donkey, today I want you to carry me.’

Benji turned his head and found himself looking into the most understanding man’s face he had ever seen and suddenly his shaking stopped and he felt strangely calm.  Yes, he would be able to carry this man because he knew he understood and he gently nuzzled Jesus’ hand.  While his friends put their coats on Benji’s back, Jesus gently patted the scar on the older donkey’s back and this time she didn’t wince as she normally did, but she too, gently rubbed her head against him.

When they were ready, Jesus climbed on Benji’s back and began to ride down the hill towards Jerusalem.  To his surprise, with this man on his back, Benji suddenly felt quite strong and sure of himself. Somehow, being with Jesus, had taken away his scary feelings and now he really did feel that he could carry him all the way to Jerusalem. And Benji’s mother was just a few paces behind trotting along quite contentedly.
They hadn’t gone very far, however, when people started to come to the edge of the road and they began to cheer and wave palm branches as Jesus rode by on the little donkey.  People even spread their cloaks and more palm branches on the ground so that Benji had a very soft road to walk on. People then began to shout:

‘Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord

Hosanna in the highest’

‘Yes, Jesus must be very special’ thought Benji, ‘ but I could have told all these people that from the moment he first spoke to me.’  And as he continued to trot down the road he, too, felt special and so happy.

But as we know, donkeys are very sensitive and after a little while, amidst all the cheering, Benji’s long ears began to pick up some whispers from people at the back of the crowd, people who said they didn’t like Jesus and even that they wanted to kill him.  When he heard this, Benji began to shake again, but the man on his back gently patted him and said again; ‘Not today little donkey, not today.’
So, reassured once more, Benji trotted on right through a gate in the wall and into the city of Jerusalem, right up to the temple.

When they arrived there, Jesus jumped off Benji’s back, ‘ thank you, little donkey’ he said, ‘now you go back home with your mother and rest – well done little donkey, well done.’
Benji was so happy, he didn’t want to leave, but after rubbing Jesus’ arm with his muzzle one more, he turned and trotted back up the hill with his mother.

When he got home, he turned his head and looked at the city of Jerusalem once more and he wondered what Jesus was doing now. Then, as his gaze again took in the rubbish tip, a big tear rolled down his face and he heard that gentle voice saying ‘not today, not today, little donkey’ and he wondered what tomorrow might bring……

This story forms part of a series of reflections written by Joyce , ‘A Journey through Lent and Holy Week.’

Copyright Joyce M Smith 2021

Freedom involves others

Another Tweet from my friend Joyce Smith.

The quotation from Pope John Paul II is from a sermon he preached to young people in Baltmore in 1995.
It has a dual context.

First, it is a call to seek that kind of freedom which results not in self-centredness. Freedom is not about getting our own way regardless of others. This is enslavement and mainly to a ‘You’ which is a false self.

Real Freedom must be seen in context of the freedom of others. Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of President Roosevelt once said: “Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility. For the person who is unwilling to grow up, the person who does not want to carry his own weight, this is a frightening prospect.”

Pope John Paul’s words are actually those of Abraham Lincoln. Here’s an extract from his sermon:

“One hundred thirty years ago, President Abraham Lincoln asked whether a nation “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal” could “long endure.” President Lincoln’s question is no less a question for the present generation … Democracy cannot be sustained without a shared commitment to certain moral truths about the human person and human community. The basic question before a democratic society is: “how ought we to live together?

Surely it is important for America (and everywhere) that the moral truths which make freedom possible should be passed on to each new generation. Every generation … needs to know that freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.”

This shared freedom was spoken of upon by President Barak Obama who preached a eulogy in 2015 for Pastor, Reverend Clementa Pinckney, who with eight of his congregation was shot dead by a gunman in Charleston. In an anguished sermon he pleaded that, my liberty depends on you being free too. In order for that to happen, President Obama said that we need a different road from that of violence. We need the road of grace and that, he said, requires an open mind and, more importantly an open heart.

So the second context of the quotation of John Paul II requires of us a persuit of freedom which centres not on what we want to get from life but rather, what we can do with and for others.. Freedom requires of us a life dedicated to the service of others. This involves us in seeking grace, as President Obama recognized, but a grace which is Amazing. A grace that can only come from God.

This is centred on living a Freedom that can ony be found in the truth of the Gospel – a truth which Jesus says in John Chapter 8, will set us free. We are encouraged to live in this truth. As Pope John Paul said at the end of his sermon:

Always be guided by the truth – by the truth about God who created and redeemed us, and by the truth about the human person, made in the image and likeness of God and destined for a glorious fulfillment in the Kingdom to come

[Mr G and Joyce]

Listen to the birdsong in your heart

My friend Joyce Smith has sent me another of her tweets. She reminds us that it is is nearly Spring and the dawn chorus is amazing, but it is also in the silences that we see the wonders of God’s creation.

The little bird is almost camouflaged and to notice it you have to pause and be still. As Joyce reminds us, God’s creation is ablaze with new wonder, new life. Even in the midst of the pandemic we learn new things. We learn to appreciate our surroundings, our neighbours and nature in ways that we never did before. Many lead busy lives and many fail to see the beauty aroud them. Even in the heart of cities and urban sprawl we can see the loveliness of God.

When you are still outwardly you see things. When you are still inwardly, God shows you things about yourself -things within.

Sometimes we become busy in order to avoid looking at ourselves. We crowd out the silence with noise. But if we dare to be still God shows us round the home that is ourselves, the place where Jesus tells us that the Kingdom is. God is keen to show us. He wants us to see how beautiful He has made us. How proud He is of what He has made.

God speaks to us in whispers about what we mean to him. Like the little bird we are beautiful and, of course, God’s more than beautiful and He has lots to tell us. If only we woud be still we shall learn so much. We will enter the Springtime of our hearts, our inner being and as with the Spring outside. Then we could allow ourselves to sing our own kind of birdsong, from our hearts.

[MrG & Joyce]

A Future Not Our Own

Here is another Picture Reflection from my friend Joyce Smith.

The ponder quotation is attributed to Oscar Romero, the saint and martyr who died for his faith in El Salvador on 24th March, 1980 It is a thought contained in a very special prayer. The next words of the prayer are:

This enables us to do something and to do it very well. It may be incomplete,
but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.

The Prayer, A Future Not our own,  is worth praying through slowly because it has much to say to our souls particularly in these days when we are perhaps impatient to  get on with things and frustrated, perhaps even despondent and in despair with the Covid restrictions.
May the prayer reflection  have something meaningful  for us.

Prayer…. A FUTURE NOT OUR OWN

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.

The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.

Nothing we do is complete,
– which is another way of saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No programme accomplishes the Church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

That is what we are about.
We plant a seed that will one day grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything,
and there is a sense of liberation in realising that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.

It may be incomplete,
but it is a beginning,
a step along the way,
an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results,
but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders,
ministers, not messiahs.

We are prophets of a future not our own.

The prayer is known today as The Romero Prayer though, in truth, there is no evidence that he every prayed it! It was Cardinal Basil Hume who unwittingly first attributed it to St Oscar Romero. Delivering a paper at Westminster Cathedral on Catholic Education in 1997 he misattributed it. When the paper was subsequently published, the attribution remained and was taken up by CAFOD and Caritas Internationalis  in Rome. From then it went round the Global church and in the process became known as The Romero Prayer.
The prayer was actually composed by Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw, who drafted it for a homily for the celebration of a departed priest. The homily was delivered by Cardinal John Deaden.
It has become established as the Romero Prayer mainly because, though St Oscar may not have written or prayed it, it could easily have been. It has the essence of the Saint’s own teaching, theology and spirituality.  It is no surprise therefore that it has been ‘owned’ by devotees of the Saint who find so much in his teaching and example to guide, form and enrich their own thinking and praying.

To pray this prayer and own it would go a long way to helping us to look at what it is happening to us and to our disfigured world, and placing everything and our future into God’s hands.
Under God we are indeed prophets of a future not our own. We are prophets, heralds and signs of a new future which is God’s. In the many issues in which humanity has tried to rule and dictate how we treat the Planet, we  are being called to work afresh with God to reclaim everything for a new vision of what it means to be stewards and cherishers of the amazing ‘gift of our stupendous earth.

Maybe this virus will come to be the turning point of a genuine global repentance as we return our planet back to God for His safekeeping.

[Mr G and Canon Joyce]