Reflections on humor & doubt, themes from John 20

What is the role of doubt and questioning in our spiritual lives? With whom do we keep company … some of the great matriarchs and patriarchs doubted. And then laughed. And hoped. Humor shines a light into dark places, becomes a wind sweeping through our souls.

(Reflecting on themes of humor and doubt from the Gospel of John while we celebrate Bright Sunday or Holy Humor Sunday: April 8. Wear bright colors. Bring a joke or riddle. Get ready to laugh out loud.)

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

— Rumi

Divine Place for Doubt

God seems rather doubt-tolerant, actually. — Philip Yancey

Doubt isn’t the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith … Sometimes I think it is my mission to bring faith to the faithless, and doubt to the faithful. – Paul Tillich

I have a lot of faith. But I am also afraid a lot, and have no real certainty about anything. I remembered something Father Tom had told me—that the opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. Certainty is missing the point entirely. Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns. — Anne Lamott

Surely… we cannot imagine any certainty that is not tinged with doubt, or any assurance that is not assailed by some anxiety. – John Calvin

To deny, to believe, and to doubt absolutely — this is for man what running is for a horse. – Blaise Pascal

Often when I pray I wonder if I am not posting letters to a non-existent address. – C.S. Lewis

The minute we begin to think we know all the answers, we forget the questions, and we become smug like the Pharisee who listed all his considerable virtues, and thanked God that he was not like other men… Those who believe they believe in God, but without passion in the heart, without anguish of mind, without uncertainty, without doubt, and even at times without despair, believe only in the idea of God, and not in God himself. – Madeleine L’Engle

When I get honest, I admit I am a bundle of paradoxes. I believe and I doubt, I hope and get discouraged, I love and I hate… I am trusting and suspicious. I am honest and I still play games. Aristotle said I am a rational animal; I say I am an angel with an incredible capacity for beer.– Brennan Manning

Who among us—everybody, everybody!—who among us has not experienced insecurity, loss and even doubts on their journey of faith? Everyone! We’ve all experienced this, me too. It is part of the journey of faith, it is part of our lives. This should not surprise us, because we are human beings, marked by fragility and limitations. We are all weak, we all have limits: do not panic. We all have them … If one has the answers to all the questions—that is the proof that God is not with him. It means that he is a false prophet using religion for himself. The great leaders of the people of God, like Moses, have always left room for doubt. You must leave room for the Lord, not for our certainties; we must be humble. — Pope Francis

Holiness of Humor

Humor and laughter and silliness and giggles can get into some dark, walled-off places inside us and bring breath and lightness. Anne Lamott

You can just speak the truth, because if you do that … both the good and bad, then there’s going to be hope and humor and grace in it. I like to say that nothing is ever only one thing. — Nadia Bolz-Weber

Biblical humour is the humour of those who know how to love. It is not nasty or cruel. It helps us focuses on the absurdity of some of our human traits things like – our pride – our silly habits – our strange ways of thinking and speaking, and then when we laugh at these traits of ours they are transformed, and so are we. — Heather Davies

I laugh when I think how I once sought paradise as a realm outside of the world of birth. It is right in the world of birth and death that the miraculous truth is revealed. But this is not the laughter of someone who suddenly acquires a great fortune; neither is it the laughter of one who has won a victory. It is, rather, the laughter of one who; after having painfully searched for something for a long time, finds it one morning in the pocket of his coat. — Thich Nhat Hahn

Humor and laughter are not necessarily the same thing. Humor permits us to see into life from a fresh and gracious perspective. We learn to take ourselves more lightly in the presence of good humor. Humor gives us the strength to bear what cannot be changed, and the sight to see the human under the pompous. — Joan Chittister

Thus it is that St. John Chrysostomos, in one of his homilies on Hebrews, [2] while doubting that Christ could have laughed during his earthly life, nonetheless tells us that laughter is not evil or harmful (“ou kakon ho gelos”). Indeed, he points out that laughter has been implanted in the us (“enkeitai en hemin”) by God, so that we might with a smile comfort those who are despondent or afraid (“anomen autous to meidiamati”). Further, he tells us that laughter has been so implanted in us that the soul might thereby be given respite at times (“hula anetai pote he psyche”). In other words, laughter can comfort the suffering and can soothe our own souls. — Archbishop Chrysostomos of Etna 

That it is He Who granteth Laughter and Tears. — Qur’an, chapter 53 (An-Najm), Verse 43

Humour is…the all-consoling and…the all-excusing, grace of life. ― C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

Origins of Bright Sunday or Holy Humor Sunday
From Joyful Noiseletter:  … For centuries in Eastern Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant countries, the week following Easter Sunday, including “Bright Sunday” (the Sunday after Easter), was observed by the faithful as “days of joy and laughter” with parties and picnics to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection.

Churchgoers and pastors played practical jokes on each other, drenched each other with water, told jokes, sang, and danced.

The custom was rooted in the musings of early church theologians (like Augustine, Gregory of Nyssa, and John Chrysostom) that God played a practical joke on the devil by raising Jesus from the dead. “Risus paschalis – the Easter laugh,” the early theologians called it.

In 1988 the Fellowship of Merry Christians began encouraging churches and prayer groups to resurrect Bright Sunday celebrations and call it “Holy Humor Sunday,” with the theme: “Jesus is the LIFE of the party.” …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to top