…then was I beside him as his craftsman,
and I was his delight day by day,
playing before him all the while,
playing on the surface of his earth;
and I found delight in the children of humans.
The closing verses of today’s first reading from Proverbs 8: 22-31 are about Wisdom – another name for God.
What strikes me is the playfulness of God. Some versions translate this as rejoicing, but I think we need to be playful, as God is playful.
Pope Francis has insisted on the importance of joy in the Christian life. There is a proverb, “A sad saint is a sorry saint” or, in Spanish, “Un santo triste es un triste santo.”
Today is the feast of a saint who was far from sad. He was a practical joker, not only to try to prevent people from calling him a saint but to reflect the playfulness of God. He would go around Rome with half his face shaved or in strange costumes. He at times would tweak the ears or nose of friends he met in the street.
Philip Neri, who was born in Florence (and who, by the way, respected the memory of Savonarola), was the apostle in Rome and founder of the Congregation of the Oratory. He was a friend of many saints of his era, including St. Ignatius Loyola and was also a confessor of Palestrina (who, I believe, wrote oratorios for Philip’s Oratory.)
As St. Philip once wrote,
Perfection does not consists in such outward things as shedding tears and the like, but in true and solid virtues, Tears are not a sign that a man is in the grace of God, neither must we infer that one who weeps when he speaks of holy and devout things necessarily lives a holy life. Cheerfulness strengthens the heart and makes us persevere in a good life; therefore the servant of God ought always to be in good spirits. When a man is freed from a temptation or any other distress, let him take great care to show fitting gratitude to God for the benefit he has received.
I have been blessed with a crazy sense of humor – a heritage from my father. This has served me well, for I am less myself when I get too serious. And so I need to pray for playfulness and be grateful for this gift.
Today, may the playfulness of God, who created our world and delights to be with us, nourish our sense of humor, our playfulness.