“It is the test of a good religion whether you can joke about it.” – G.K. Chesterton
Humor is a grace from God that makes the unapproachable approachable. All classes, races, political partisans and religious sects can have one thing in common; a good laugh. The great elixir of conflict is humor. And humor can only be expressed when humility overtakes the stubbornly proud. It is logical to assume then that since God made man in His image and likeness, and since we have a sense of humor, that He would also have one. If we can find things funny, so can He. Of course God’s humor is never cruel the way humans may be at times. In fact, God is entirely pure and unblemished, therefore so too is His humor. God, like a good parent, will help us see the futility in our seriousness by not taking us seriously in a most unassuming way. And by it our pride gives way to humility followed by good humor. Making us charming to those around us.
After mass one Sunday, a little boy unexpectedly announced to his mom, “Mom, I’ve decided to become a priest when I grow up.” “That’s ok with us if you want to do that,” she said, “but why did you decide to become a priest?” “Well,” said the little boy, “I have to go to mass on Sundays anyway. I think it will be more fun to stand up and yell than to sit down and listen.”
A boy walked up to the parish priest after mass and handed him a dollar. The priest told him he should give the dollar to the poor. The little boy responded, “But, that’s why I gave it to you, Father. My dad says you’re the poorest preacher we ever had.”
After his baby brother was baptized in church, little Timmy cried all the way home in the back seat of the car. His father asked him what was wrong? Finally, the little boy stopped crying long enough to tell his dad, “That priest in church said he wanted us brought up in a Christian home, but I want to stay with you and mom!”
Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen: While giving his homily during mass one Sunday, was interrupted by a restless and quite vocal child. The child’s embarrassed mother at one point gathered her child up and was making her way out of the pew where they were seated. Archbishop Sheen paused in his homily to encourage the mother to stay, saying: “Madam, it is not necessary for you to leave mass, your child is not bothering me.” To which she replied, “No Archbishop, I’m leaving because you are bothering him.” And with that the congregation, including Archbishop Sheen, broke into laughter. Again, even the good Archbishop would note, that humility precedes Humor. All at that moment, in laughter, were one.
If we can agree that God has a sense of humor then Jesus, the 2nd person of the Holy Trinity, would be expected to as well. During the time of Jesus in first century Israel, there were publicans and tax collectors who could walk up to a man and tax him for what he was carrying, and much more. These tax collectors were hated and despised because they were usually fellow Jews who worked for Rome.
In a scene from Franco Zeffirelli’s mini-series, “Jesus of Nazareth,” Jesus invites himself to the house of Matthew, a tax collector. Outside Matthew’s house, Peter, in the company of some of the other apostles are appalled that Jesus was eating with a sinner. In their anguish over the certainty that such a scandal would spread, the apostles asked Peter why he didn’t persuade the master not to attend. Peter, in anguish, told them that he tried to do just that. But Jesus’ reply to Peter’s plea was, matter-of-factly; “Why don’t you come along, as well.” That scene always draws a chuckle from me. Through humor, Jesus is showing Peter that he must put away his pride and anger so not to separate himself from all those, righteous and sinners alike, whom he must one day love and lead as Jesus’ vicar on earth.
Once, as any child who doesn’t get his way, I announced that I was leaving home. My mom’s response was, “Wait, I’ll make you a lunch to take with you.” How can you not laugh at that? Yet I stormed out of the house. We are made to realize, at times as these, by those who care most for us, how truly foolish we are. And isn’t a fool a humorous character? We need but to consider the court jester of the Middle Ages. Peter I’m sure came to the same realization that his foolish pride, too, had put a divide between him and Jesus. Once humbled, Peter saw the humor and was again one with Jesus. After one lonely lap around the neighborhood my senses, too, returned. And I, as well, returned home for lunch, rather than stubbornly taking it on the road.
There are things in this worldly life that should be seen as important but not taken too seriously, including our foibles, so that God’s gift of humor is not lost. For it is in shared humor that the common and elite, the friend and foe are humbled to the same level of perception where true humanness is exalted. It is here that we will come to understand, if but for an instant, that we are all one as brothers and sisters of Christ, and like Him are heirs to Paradise; where love, truth, life, joy and humor are everlasting.
“When last I saw an old gentleman running after his hat in Hyde Park, I told him that a heart so benevolent as his ought to be filled with peace and thanks at the thought of how much unaffected pleasure his every gesture and bodily attitude were at the moment giving to the crowd.” – (From “All Things Considered,” by G.K. Chesterton)