I was very much enthused when someone told me that on Easter Monday the Orthodox Church has a tradition of families meeting together around lots of bottles of fine wine and delicious food and crack jokes to commemorate the cosmic joke that Jesus Christ played on the devil on Easter Sunday!
The devil thought that he had managed to silence Jesus Christ once and for all by killing him, without realizing that Jesus Christ wanted to die because it was the only way that he could enter into the kingdom of darkness! And once inside, He managed to earthquake the devil and his kingdom delivering him the final lethal blow… And suddenly joy became possible. Easter is joy unlimited!
It is true. A joyless Christian is not a Christian! Nietzsche was right when he made Zarathustra utter ‘I would believe only in a God who could dance.’ Or as that agnostic put it, “Christianity would be more convincing if Christians looked more redeemed!”
The key is twofold. First of all, learn how to “cast all your anxieties on Him” as Saint Peter tells us in his First Letter, “because He cares about you.”
A Jewish story illustrates this point perfectly. Mrs. Levy goes down in the morning and finds her husband crying. ‘I didn’t sleep a wink last night,’ he sobs. ‘I owe one thousand dollars to Rosenblum next door and cannot pay it.’ ‘I’ll deal with it’, says his wife. ‘But how can you deal with it? You haven’t got one thousand dollars either.’ ‘Watch,’ she says and goes to the window, throws it open and calls out, ‘Rosenblum!’ A little face appears at the window next door. ‘Yes, Mrs. Levy,’ says the face politely. ‘You know my husband owes you one thousand dollars,’ she says. ‘Well, he can’t pay it!’ She slams down the window and says to her husband, ‘You can stop worrying, I have dealt with it!’ ‘But how have you dealt with it?’ says her husband, bewildered. ‘Ah!’ she says triumphantly, ‘let him do the worrying!’
It is a line worth trying! You are not God and you do not have to take over all the worries of the world on yourself. Just say to yourself, ‘Let Him worry’! It works like a treat! “Even the hairs of your head are numbered’ as Jesus exquisitely puts it!
The second key is develop an ability to laugh at yourself. Do not take yourself seriously. It is not worth the effort!! It has been said that we learn to grow on the day that we learn to have the first real laugh at ourselves.
Henri Nouwen once wrote a fantastic book. It spoke about clowns and Christianity! In it he spoke how the clown saves us from convincing ourselves that only spiritual trapeze artists with their superb timing can ever find God!
The clown gives hope to all of us who are not at ‘the center of the events’. Like us, clowns ‘fumble and fall’ They ‘don’t have it all together, they do not succeed in what they try, they are awkward, out of balance and left-handed’. Clowns are like us – who trust that when we approach God we will not find a sign that says : ‘Only trapeze artists, only the gifted, only the unbroken need apply.’ We are looking for a the sign that says : ‘Bring in the clowns – bring in the broken….’ The clown saves us.
Saint Paul understood this perfectly when he wrote in 2 Corinthians, ‘I will gladly boast of my weaknesses’.
Therese of the Child Jesus also understood this perfectly. She died when she was only 24 years and nine months, passing the last few months of her life in an infirmary. It was tough. Her body was devastated by an illness for which there was no cure and for which she was given no relief. Her soul was shrouded in its own inner darkness. And yet she joked! “I cough and cough! I’m just like a train when it arrives at the station; I am arriving also at a station – heaven, and I’m announcing it!” Her cousin, Sister Marie, wrote in a letter. “She is always making those who come to visit her laugh. There are times when one could pay to be near her. I believe she will die laughing…”
Yes, Lord, make it possible for us to live and to…die, laughing!! Please!
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.