The Easter season, when we celebrate that God has the last laugh on Satan, is the perfect time to reflect on humor. This gift is unique to human beings. I love a good laugh. Yesterday Sister Sharon, who teaches second grade, said that in class she mentioned Pope Benedict XV. Immediately a little boy’s hand shot up. He said, “When I was in first grade, he was Pope Benedict the XVI.” Do you read all the jokes in the Reader’s Digest first? Do you like to watch “America’s Funniest Home Videos”? Do you instinctively like someone who makes a funny remark? Then you are like most people.
God obviously has a sense of humor. Why else would he create a giraffe, a hippopotamus, and two-year-old human being? Consider too the jokes God played: old Sarah becomes pregnant, and Saul on his way to persecute Christians becomes their leader. Jesus sometimes cracked jokes too, although some of it is lost on us. Still, it’s obvious that the image of a camel passing through the eye of a needle is ridiculous, especially if the camel is two-humped. And then there was the time Jesus sent Peter, the great fisherman, to fetch tax money from a fish in the Sea of Galilee.
Laughter is healthy. It’s been called the best medicine. I heard that it massages the liver! Even Scripture recommends it: “A joyful heart is the health of the body, but a depressed spirit dries up the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22) Wise speakers and teachers incorporate humor. At a Catholic-Lutheran dialogue workshop, a bit of humor set the tone for what could have been a stiff discussion. The session started off with three loud bangs that echoed through the seminary halls. Instead of being annoyed, the speaker said, “Those are typical seminary sounds. Next you will hear the lawnmower, and then the trash collectors will arrive.” Then someone called out, “Maybe that was a Lutheran pounding something on your door!” The meeting proceeded with a spirit of lightheartness and fellowship.
In the strength of our faith, we can “laugh at the days to come” with the ideal woman of Proverbs 31:25. In fact we can die laughing in the tradition of St. Lawrence who advised his executions who were burning him alive, “Turn me over. I think I’m done on this side.” And then there’s St. Thomas More who warned his executioner to aim carefully and then moved his beard out of the way, explaining that it had never offended the king.
In a talk to religious women, Bishop Anthony Pilla of Cleveland spoke of the need for “a diaconate of humor.” We must teach laughter to a world that has almost forgotten how to laugh. Laughter is the sign of joy, and joy is the mark of a Christian, a fruit of the Holy Spirit. The little prince in Antoine de Saint Exupery’s The Little Prince leaves his friend the gift of his laughter. To whom can you give that gift today?
P.S. I once collected from the Sisters of Notre Dame true stories of funny things that happened in the classroom or parish. These are in the book Catholic School Kids Say the Funniest Things, available through my Amazon Bookstore in the tool bar or through me.
When has someone tickled your funny bone?