Just yesterday I shared a prolonged time of laughter with some others, and it felt so wonderful to let the laughter come from deep in the belly as we allowed ourselves to become caught up in the delight. While it is true that there is a lot going on in the wider world that is deeply troubling, it is also true that laughter is a rich and necessary part of our lives. Laughter signals our participation beyond words in the mysterious wonder of the moment.
In one of his talks, my mentor and teacher Jim Finley shared this insight—as we were laughing uncontrollably during his session at one point:
Thomas Merton once told me, because he was very funny, and he said: ‘It’s as serious as death, without a sense of humor you won’t make it.’ There is a pedagogy to laughter because laughter is participation. You’re laughing because you get the joke, and the joke’s on you! A joke is God’s surprise party; that he is unexpectedly closer that you ever imagine.
Laughter and joy are woven through scriptures. I think of Sarah, the wife of Abraham, laughing at the idea that she would bear a son in her old age, an outrageous promise that does come true. Or Jesus reminding us “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.” In challenging times it can be difficult to remember that God yearns for our joy and continues to work to bring it about in our lives.
For many of us, pets bring us joy. As we approach our pet blessing this Sunday at 5pm, held near the feast of St. Francis, we take some time to honor the gift our pets are in our lives—those we may have today as well as those in the past. So often our pets reflect God’s unconditional love for us or perhaps they simply bring us to laughter at their sweet and silly ways.
One of the things we do in our household is speak for our dogs, Howie and Bailey. We have different voices for them and put words together with their actions and facial expressions. One of my favorite videos floating around the internet—most of which I avoid like the plague—is that of an owner in dialogue with his German Shepherd. If you want an easy laugh, or at least a chance to see what cracks me up, the clip is here. It is only 1.19 minutes long and even has something for cat lovers. I just wish I could be in the room watching it with you and sharing a good laugh.
Laughter is important even during the most difficult times, although at those times it can be hard to come by. Perhaps we can put Psalm 118:24 up where we see it in the mirror each morning:
This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
And as we brush our teeth in the evening, perhaps we can name one thing for which we were glad or that brings rejoicing. And I’d love to hear what has moved you to laughter recently!
Hope to see you Sunday,