Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Light One Candle:
Hope, humor, and Easter

by Dennis Heaney

(From the April 12, 2007 edition of the Inland Register)

Dennis Heaney Easter! What a glorious season of life, joy and “Alleluia!”

But is it also a time to laugh?

Despite our happiness at coming through the somberness of Lent and the sad solemnity of Good Friday, we don’t usually associate laughter with the Risen Christ. But perhaps we should.

Think about Mary Magdalene and the other women who, mourning the loss of Jesus, went to the tomb that Sunday morning to finish the burial ritual. They were determined to honor the Lord in death as they had followed him in life. What they found was the stone rolled back from the entrance and an angel who said, “He is not here; for he has been raised.” They left “quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples” (Matthew 28:6, 8).

Their hearts must have been pounding. Within moments, they had gone from grief to shock to wonder. Would it really be so extraordinary for these women and, indeed, the apostles, once they learn that their beloved Lord lives, to laugh out loud with sheer, pure, blessed relief?

The Gospels don’t say so, but I wouldn’t be surprised. After all, consider God’s own grand joke that he pulled on Satan: Death is conquered. Evil is vanquished. Jesus, Son of God and Man, lives – and through him, humankind is saved. Called Risus Paschalis – the Easter Laugh – this idea is actually part of an old Christian tradition which is making something of a comeback. During the Middle Ages, many churches continued the Paschal celebration by telling jokes and stories, even dancing and feasting on Easter Sunday afternoon and the next day. In recent years, a number of different denominations have revived the idea of stirring up a little joy and laughter the week after Easter, often calling it Holy Humor Sunday.

If you believe as I do that laughter is a gift from God, then how can we not believe that God himself has a sense of humor? Not only because he made kangaroos and giraffes and us, too, but because he’s the source of hope and humor springs from hope.

Heaven knows we need to laugh as much as we need to hope! Most of us are grateful for the chuckles, giggles and belly-laughs that puncture our day – and ease the stress of our lives. Now, there are those who think they don’t need hope in God, mistakenly believing that they control their own destinies; others who don’t hope simply despair of his help. The rest of us go about our lives with a lighter spirit because we see ourselves as the frail, fallible, foolish creatures we are, at the same time we know that we’re the cherished children of our loving God.

What about heaven? “Would there still be a place for humor or even laughter?” asks Paul Thigpen, editor of The Catholic Answer magazine. His conclusion? “Humor will continue for eternity … an overflowing expression of gratitude to God; that is, a tiny part of that everlasting virtue, charity. It will become the occasion for looking deep into the eyes of the Father, and saying with a heart transfixed by Love Himself, ‘Thank You. Thank You! For saving me from my absurdity, for healing all my disordered incongruities, for loving this little speck of dust enough to become a speck of dust yourself. I will never cease thanking you.’”

Happy Easter! And be sure to smile!

(Dennis Heaney is director of The Christophers, an organization dedicated to the proposition that it is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness. For a free copy of the Christopher News Note “Keep Hope in Your Heart,” write to: The Christophers, 12 E. 48th St., New York, NY 10017; or e-mail:

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