Isn’t it amazing how during ordeals, people still find or create something to laugh about? Look at the number of jokes, cartoons, and puns on Facebook nowadays! I was going to write a post on laughter because in these times we need it. Then I remembered I had already written one. So here it is, tweaked a little:
The gift of laughter is unique to human beings. I love a good laugh. Sister Sharon said when she mentioned Pope Benedict XV to her second graders, 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 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? Consider too the jokes God played: old Sarah becomes pregnant, giant Goliath is slain by a boy with a slingshot, and Saul on his way to persecute Christians becomes their leader. During the Easter season we celebrate that God has the last laugh on Satan.
Jesus sometimes cracked jokes, too, although some of it is lost on us. Still, obviously, the image of a camel passing through the eye of a needle is ridiculous, especially if the camel is two-humped. So too is a log in someone’s eye. And then there was the time Jesus sent Peter, the great fisherman, to fetch tax money from a fish in the Sea of Galilee. And his story about the outrageous amount of grain produced by seeds: a hundredfold. Farmers in his audience must have laughed at that.
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 lightheartedness 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.
Bishop Anthony Pilla of Cleveland once 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, and a sign of God’s presence. 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 my book Why Is Jesus in the Microwave? published by Our Sunday Visitor and available from me or Amazon.
When has someone tickled your funny bone? Did you ever laugh until you cried?