I feel a bit torn today between the solemnity of the Holy Thursday commemoration of the Last Supper, and April Fools Day, (a coincidence of date which only happens every quarter century or so).
Which to chose for the Holy Thursday FFF post?
And then I began to see some links between April Fools and Christianity.
If someone who had no knowledge of Christian faith were to watch a Holy Thursday liturgy with its solemn washing of feet and celebration of the birth of the Eucharist where bread and wine become the body and blood of Jesus Christ, the visitor would think the gathering a bit foolish at least.
If we were to tell this visitor the rest of the story, explaining Good Friday’s commemoration of the death of the Lord and then Holy Saturday’s fire and water celebration of the resurrection of the one we then call Living Savour and God-with-us, our spectator wouldn’t hesitate to call us the most foolish of all people.
So perhaps it’s a useful coincidence that April Fools Day this year begins our celebration of the three days we commemorate as the Easter Triduum.
I can’t help but recall some relevant scripture quotes, for example “the foolish of God is wiser than human wisdom” (1 Cor 1:25)
And there is the fool in Shakespeare (and in many other classical writers), the jester or the clown, an essential character in any healthy realm, because this character was the one who could speak the truth to the king and get away with it since the monarch (if s/he didn’t like what was being said) could dismiss this critic as just a foolish clown. Anyone else would lose their head.
On many occasions wise Christian teachers have accepted that saints are those who are prepared to be fools for Christ, people who are courageous enough to set aside the attractions of power and wealth to follow Jesus through suffering to death.
And who gets the last laugh?
Well according to Jesus we are better off making our home with the weak and the vulnerable since the powerful and comfortable are having their reward now.
Already today social media is flowing with some ingenious April Fools’ pranks. We have all been the victims of good-humoured jokes, and most of us have initiated a few ourselves.
Laughter is a great gift, and most of us do not indulge enough. The Bible speaks of humour and laughter often. I’ll attach a few references at the bottom of the page.
Pope Francis’ sense of humour is natural and contageous.
Pope Benedict also has a great sense of humour and he revealed this a few years ago in an interview:
“I’m not a man who constantly thinks up jokes. But I think it’s very important to be able to see the funny side of life and its joyful dimension and not to take everything too tragically. I’d also say it’s necessary for my ministry. A writer once said that angels can fly because they don’t take themselves too seriously. Maybe we could also fly a bit if we didn’t think we were so important.” Peter Seewald Interview
Humour and laughter is a gift that is most often seen in babies and young children. It is as if they have not yet unlearned the ability to live with this gift, and to use it often. Most of us take life and ourselves too seriously. We forget that laughter is the best medicine.
Pope Francis has admitted that he prays every day for the ability to laugh, and suggested a prayer by St. Thomas More to be granted a sense of humour. The pope says the prayer every day and has recommended it to the members of the Roman Curia.
So it’s Holy Thursday, and in the midst of this solemn solemnity I am grateful to be able to laugh.
Prayer for Good Humour
by St. Thomas More
Grant me, O Lord, good digestion, and also something to digest.
Grant me a healthy body, and the necessary good humour to maintain it.
Grant me a simple soul that knows to treasure all that is good
and that doesn’t frighten easily at the sight of evil,
but rather finds the means to put things back in their place.
Give me a soul that knows not boredom, grumblings, sighs and laments,
nor excess of stress, because of that obstructing thing called “I.”
Grant me, O Lord, a sense of good humour.
Allow me the grace to be able to take a joke to discover in life a bit of joy,
and to be able to share it with others.
- Is it possible that you are taking yourself too seriously. If you are not sure, ask Jesus to reveal the answer to you, and to give you an example. Then join him in chuckling at your misguided seriousness.
- There are many images of a smiling or laughing Jesus. Have a look at this link.
- A number of people have asked where they can watch the full Francesco documentary I mentioned in Tuesday’s post. You can watch on demand at Choice TV on Demand at this link. The sign-up login process is easy and free and the almost two hour documentary is well worth the time.
Some Biblical references about good humour:
Proverbs 17:22 – A merry heart doeth good [like] a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.
Psalms 126:2 – Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, The LORD hath done great things for them.
Job 8:21 – Till he fill thy mouth with laughing, and thy lips with rejoicing.
Ecclesiastes 3:4 – A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
Proverbs 15:13 – A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance: but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.
Genesis 21:6 – And Sarah said, God hath made me to laugh, [so that] all that hear will laugh with me.
Psalms 2:4 – He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.
Psalms 32:11 – Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all [you that are] upright in heart.
Psalms 16:11 – Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence [is] fulness of joy; at thy right hand [there are] pleasures for evermore.
Psalms 4:7 – Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time [that] their corn and their wine increased.
Psalms 37:13 – The Lord shall laugh at him: for he seeth that his day is coming.
Philippians 4:4 – Rejoice in the Lord alway: [and] again I say, Rejoice
What an unexpected and excellent theme today! So much truth to reflect on.
foolishness- overcoming ego-sharing & living the joy of our faith…
“Allow me the grace to be able to take a joke to discover in life a bit of joy,
and to be able to share it with others.“
Ngā mihi nui
Dear Fr John,
What a perfect subject for starting a new month and the Easter Triduum. I never thought about connecting a sense of humor with having a living faith until today. It opened my eyes and heart to something I should have realised long ago in my journey following Christ. This has lifted my heart and spirit immensely in preparing for Easter. God bless you for giving us a wonderful inspiration into what should be a living faith full of joy and happiness that we bring to others (and ourself, too). Happy Easter,! Pax et bonum, Kent
I love the clowns, John. Are they yours? (Just kidding)
Henri Nouwen wrote a wonderful book on formation “Clowning in Rome”
On being ‘fools for Christ’s sake’
I note the new coadjutor bishop has on his crest “Rejoice in the Lord always”
(Thanks for Francis documentary link)
Thank you Fr John, your reflection put a smile on my face, and the image of the Curia laughing is so relevant after the Francesco doco on Monday .
After getting up not too brightly it was a pleasant surprise to read your take on the day. I pray to find joy in each day
Thank you Fr. John for the wonderful reflections you have sent this Lent which you have sent through so diligently. I have been so inspired by your humility and humanity coming through. May God bless you abundantly this Easter.
That silly pretentious pious woman that sits in my stead at Church … now she’s a real fool!
I have a laugh at her when I catch her at it
Thank you for your wonderful way of bringing us the unexpected
A wonderful way to start a day. With laughter and joy. Thank you. So easily I can be busy being busy about world and church affairs ( which are often so glum) that I forget to put some humor in my daily life. What a gift. SKJ