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Easter

 Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, WisconsinApril 9, 2004 Issue 

Laugh heartily on Easter as Jesus did

Jesus' laughter when he rose was a poke in the eye of death and its power


By Tom Rinkoski

photo of Tom Rinkoski
Tom Rinkoski

I'm guessing that when Jesus rose from the dead, he smiled. I think he may have even laughed. Have you ever seen Richard Hook's picture of "The Laughing Jesus?" That is how I picture Jesus upon exiting the tomb.

Aristotle reckoned that you take your first laugh some time after your 40th day on this earth and then you become human. The Navajo hold a first laugh rite as soon as a baby laughs. Our society still has an ambivalent attitude toward the humorous. We hold people like Robin Williams in high esteem, but generally are still (especially when we "get down to business") suspicious that a light heart is a sign of a lightweight mind.

Easter
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I think the trouble is that humor is the enemy of authority. That is why I am sure Jesus' laughed at the Resurrection. It is the ultimate poke in the eye at death and its power and authority.

Anyone who has spent time on a school playground has seen humor used to make a point without drawing blood. Laughter releases tension. Laughter can bring on a lightness of mood, a creative burst, a positive outlook, and usually does us a lot of good.

If we could learn to accept the Easter laugh of Christ it may be the best medicine we can apply. There is acceptance and even some scientific proof that laughter may reduce stress, stimulate your immune system, and alertness. And heaven knows we need more lerts!

Laughter has always been an integral element of the spiritual geography of family life. Haven't you ever told one or more members of your family that they'll laugh about this someday? Long before I knew the meaning of New Year's Day, I fell asleep to the laughter at my parent's New Year's Day parties in the basement.

I remember laughter as the on-going sound track at family birthday parties, First Communion parties, and Christmas gatherings. I can still hear my Aunt Edie downstairs playing Christmas Eve poker with my serious-minded uncles laughing as she "robbed them" of all their dimes and nickels. I have heard folks share humorous stories at wakes to remind those gathered of the fullness of the deceased person's life and times.

I publicly confess and admit that I go to the comics section of the paper every Sunday as my first read. I love reading books like Captain Underpants and Junie B. Jones because of how they make almost everyone laugh deeply and richly. When I do my storytelling performances, I enjoy telling outhouse stories because people laugh. Such laughter puts us in touch with a well of living water deep inside us. Unfortunately such laughter passes quickly in and out of our lives like Burma Shave signs.

Humor has the power to bring a family together in a safe place. Laughter can serve as a healing balm. The immediacy of humor is its delight. It requires involvement, but it never seems like work.

It was St. Paul who said, "If any one among you seems to be wise in the world, let him become a fool. It is only in being foolish that one can really be wise." There was a strong tradition of "fools for Christ" for several centuries in Europe. Clerics would bray like donkeys, and dance in the sanctuary. Such ribald taboo-breaking usually happened during the Feast of Fools, once-a-year, much like modern Carnivale, but it was very popular. Perhaps we have gotten far too serious. We need to hear and appreciate God's grace in Easter laughter!

So travel into the Easter season equipped lightly! Travel with smiles, stories and humor. I leave you with a quote from a poem by Anne Sexton. These are the last lines of the last poem in her collection titled, The Awful Rowing Toward God:

Dearest Dealer,

I with my royal straight flush

Love you so for your wild card,

That untamable, eternal gut driven ha-ha

And lucky love.


(Rinkoski is parish Director of Religious Education at St. Augustine Church and Student Center in Gainesville, Fla. His e-mail address is [email protected].)


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