Joy in the Lord

A good laugh is a sign of love…
Karl Rahner, SJ

Today is the feast of St. Philip Neri who was a practical joker. Part of that was a defense against those who wanted to adulate him as a saint when he was alive. Part was an expression of the joy he found in God.

As he 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.

In the last few years here in Honduras I have experienced the grace of joy, of cheerfulness. Also, I have become more “picaro,” mischievous, and more of a “bromista,” a joker.

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I find myself becoming more like my father whom I remember as a great joker, a man with a great heart.

Being able to joke around with people and to be a little mischievous helps break down barriers. It helps us establish bonds.

It also can lead us deeper into the love of God, as we set aside our pretensions and rejoice in the good gifts that God gives us.

It was the Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner who wrote this about a sense of humor:

Not everyone has a sense of humor. That calls for an altruistic detachment from oneself and a mysterious sympathy with others which is felt even before they open their mouths. . . . A good laugh is a sign of love; it may be said to give us a glimpse of, or a first lesson in, the love that God bears for every one of us. . . . God laughs, says the Bible. When the last piece of human folly makes the last burst of human laughter ring out crisp and clear in a doomed world, is it too much to imagine that this laugh will resemble that of God . . . and seem to convey that, in spite of everything, all’s well?

I have been blessed with a hearty laugh, but I think I saw one of the most amazing manifestations of joy last Friday night, in the midst of torrential rains, as I joined the vigil before the beatification of Monseñor Romero.

There were may moments of joy that night, but one stands out.

For almost two full hours, between 1:00 and 3:00 am, young Franciscan friars from Central America led a crowd in song and dance – and moments of reflection on the witness of Romero.

Their joy was contagious. Here’s a short video which, though it’s shaky in places, gives you a sense of the joy in the Lord that many felt with the beatification of Romero – a sign of the presence of God.

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If the video doesn’t load on this page, you can find it here.

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