No, the Lord has not yet arrived – that is Christmas and we are still in Advent. As a stickler for that sort of distinction, I thought twice about the post title. That said- you can see that I went for it.
My review of Fr. James Martin’s new book, “Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor, and Laughter Are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life,” (Harper One, $25.99) was published in yesterday’s Evangelist. I also present it for you here.
Have some humor for the holidays
“Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor, and Laughter Are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life” by Rev. James Martin, SJ (Harper One, $25.99)
|BY FRAN ROSSI SZPYLCZYNHumor may be one of the least-used tools of evangelizing, but it’s never too late to begin.
The Eucharist is no laughing matter. However, Christ, present in the Eucharist, is the source of all joy. In his latest book, “Between Heaven and Mirth,” Rev. James Martin, SJ, explores this notion of joy in our faith.
Joy and happiness are often confused, but Father Martin clarifies the difference between them. It is easy to see that, with the cross as the focal point, we focus on suffering – and we are never directed away from the essential notion of suffering. This book brings forth the necessity of joy in the midst of suffering as essential to faith.
Consider these words: “You need not be a scholar of religion to see that anyone truly in touch with God is joyful.” As people who not only die with Christ, but rise up with Him as well, we are called to joy in a most profound way. What is more joyful than Christ risen?
This book is filled with examples of faith infused with joy – and no shortage of jokes. This joy is a pathway to a richer spiritual life and a call for greater awareness of God’s presence in all things.
Readers will find Scriptural references to well-known stories that might have been understood differently in biblical times and even seen as funny. This humor engaged and consoled many then and can do so now, as well.
What’s funny, for example, about St. Lawrence, martyred on a grill of burning coals? Apparently, he told his executioners, “Turn me over. I’m done on this side.” St. Teresa of Avila once said, “A sad nun is a bad nun.” Father Martin employs the lives of many such saints to support his call to joy and humor.
Unhappy times in life are not ignored, either. Readers are asked to explore those moments with faith, reminded that happiness and joy are not to be confused. The absence of a cheerful happiness should not preclude our deep joy, which is rooted in the heart of Christ.
One chapter in the book is devoted to the Visitation as a study in joy. Another chapter explores the notion that a lack of seriousness is not sacrilegious, but a lack of humility can be a problem.
Is there a better path to humility than through laughter? Isn’t laughter a call to others to discover the source of joy?
Father Martin is very clear: All religious institutions need humor and laughter. Levity and belief are partners, reminding us that perhaps laughter is the most underrated and under-used tool in evangelizing.
This book is truly an invitation to an enlivened faith and Father Martin’s own tireless evangelizing shines through every page. Readers will not only find humor, but will also find Christ present in ways they may have never imagined.
(Mrs. Szpylczyn works at Immaculate Conception in Glenville and attends St. Edward’s parish in Clifton Park. She blogs at http://breadhere.wordpress.com and on the websites of both parishes.)