Ndumiso Ngcobo
Ndumiso Ngcobo

The Pope and Balaam’s ass

I am a Catholic, albeit a semi-practising one. Don’t make me go into the detail — let’s just say the missus is not perpetually knocked up despite our nocturnal scrums every Tuesday night. I don’t have the full complement of Catholic sacraments but I have received Baptism, Holy Communion, Confirmation and Marriage. They’re still hogging the Death sacrament on the iffy grounds of my still being among the living. We’ll get there someday — baby steps and all that. So you can imagine that, like Catholics everywhere, I received the news about the Pope suffering a fall and fracturing his wrist a few weeks ago with a lot of concern. My first instinct was to wonder whether he’d fractured his left or right wrist. It’s an important detail — the Holy Father’s right hand doubles as a Holy Spirit applicator during Mass, see.

I read practically every report on the incident and I have to say, I hate it when the media does this to us ie hog the detail. For instance, I would have wanted to know what the Pope had been wearing during his holy tumble. Did his foot get caught in one of his flowing dresses? Did he emit a girly shriek of surprise as he fell and when he got up, did he yell, “Leave me alone Satan!” at no one in particular? That’s the kind of detail I want in such stories. At the risk of encouraging that evil Vaticanphobe Dan Brown I have to wonder if the Vatican is telling us everything about this or whether they’re pulling their regular stunts so aptly documented in The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons. I’m being serious. Think about it; the Holy Father has a direct line to the Almighty, right? After all, that is what being Pope is essentially about; regular briefing sessions with God about — oh, I don’t know — all the ways in which the human race disappoint Him on a daily basis. God is omnipresent, omnipotent and all that other godly stuff, right? This means that He knew about the papal dive before it happened but didn’t see it fit to warn the Pope during their huddle preceding the plunge. That can only mean one thing; God wanted the Pope to fall! Logic therefore dictates that the Pope must have done something that irked the Almighty.

I know some of you are thinking, “Oh come on. That’s a quantum leap in logic”. All I have to say to you is “Oh ye of scant Bible study!” You see, God’s modus operandi when it comes to these things is very well-documented in the Bible. For starters, dissent doesn’t sit well with Him. There are many stories in the Bible about obstinate biblical figures that God had to punish for veering off the course He had established. That includes the quintessential Bearded One, Moses who ended up wandering the hot, dry, sandy desert for forty years with a scarf on his head, a fuzzy beard on his chin and only sandals for footwear. Then there’s Jacob whatshisname who decided to go all WWE Smackdown on the Lord. But my favourite story involving an individual not wanting to bow to God’s will has got to be a dude called Balaam. Now, I don’t know if everybody knows this but God doesn’t like talking to humans directly. He prefers the judicious use of objects, signs and symbols to get his messages across. Remember how He manifested as a burning shrub to park cheesy with Moses? Sometimes, just to exhibit his omnipotence he’ll even use talking serpents and such. That’s just how He rolls; in mysterious ways.

So, in any case; here’s this dude called Balaam speeding down the freeway on his ass. Don’t be daft; his ass as in his donkey. I think Balaam was late for a BEE meeting or something along those lines. Next thing he knows the bloody ass swerves and dives into some maize field or something like that. Balaam, irritated by the petulance of the beast, does what I’d also do in this situation and starts kicking the ass’s … well, ass. The stubborn animal won’t hear of it and refuses to get back on the highway. After a few times of this obstinacy, Balaam starts getting really medieval on the critter and may even have drawn his machete in the donkey’s face. Faced with the threat to its life, the poor ass had no choice but to start pleading with Balaam not slay it — using words! These are serious heavenly matters and I have steadfastly maintained the appropriate decorum thus far. But the bit that cracks me up about Balaam’s plight is that Balaam starts rapping right back at the beast! I wish I was making this up (Check Numbers chapter 22). Balaam is sitting up on an ass in some corn field, having a conversation. I don’t know about you, but if I was donnering, say, my pet kangaroo and it started talking to me, I wouldn’t calmly look at it and go, “Stop back-chatting you dirty marsupial!” I’d run out of my house faster than Usain and Caster’s lovechild. In any case, after a while the donkey revealed that the Almighty had been blocking the road because Balaam wouldn’t obey His instruction about not attending the BEE deal. Or something like that.

I know I have a tendency to go off on a tangent. Not this time. The reason I just shared the Word with you was to get to my next point. I suspect that the Vatican is hiding from us the fact that the Pope had had a difference of opinion with God prior to his fall. It could be any number of things. Let’s say God instructs the Pope to visit Zim and break bread with President Mugabe, for instance. We all know about His mysterious ways. I can see how the Pope, in his earthly, human frailty could resist this order to chill with an international pariah. But I imagine that God would point out that He is the God of all man, criminal, prostitute or Bob. And let’s say the Pope kept on giving God lip about this: “Aww come on G, not Zimbabwe!” Is it impossible for God to have pulled a Balaam on the Holy Father and spoke to him through a pet? I think not. The Pope was up on the mountains when the incident occurred. I think he was busy back-chatting to the Alpha and the Omega when a mountain goat just lumbered up to him from nowhere and said, “Listen dawg, you’re going to Zim and that’s all there is to it, kapish?”, the Pope freaked out, leapt out of his holy chair and landed on his wrist.

Oh, and I think the Pope is coming to Zim. Watch this space.

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