PRAY TOGETHER AND LAUGH TOGETHER
The scene is filled with tenderness. The disciples get back tired from the work they’d done. The coming and going around them is so intense that «there was no time for them even to eat». And then Jesus makes this invitation to them: «Come away to some lonely place all by yourselves and rest for a while».
We Christians today all too often forget that a group of Jesus’ followers isn’t just a community of prayer, reflection and work, but also a community of rest and enjoyment.
It hasn’t always been so. The text that follows isn’t from any progressive theologian. It’s redacted back in the 4th century by that great bishop hardly suspected of frivolity – Augustine of Hippo.
«A group of Christians is a group of people who pray together, but also converse together. They laugh together and exchange favors. They tell jokes together and are serious together. They’re sometimes in disagreement, but without animosity, as sometimes one is with oneself, using that disagreement to reinforce always the usual agreement.
They learn something from each other and teach it to one another. They miss painfully those who aren’t there. They welcome with joy those who come. They make manifest all kinds of expressions: heart-felt sparks for those they love, expressed in the face, the tongue, the eyes, a thousand gestures of tenderness».
Maybe what most surprises us in this text today is that facet of some Christians who know how to pray, but also laugh sometimes. They know how to be serious and how to have fun. Today’s Church seems to be almost always grave and solemn. It seems as if we Christians are afraid of laughter, as if laughter were a sign of frivolity or irresponsibility.
There is however a humor and a knowing how to laugh that is actually a sign of maturity and wisdom. It’s the laughter of the believer who knows how to relativize what is relative, without dramatizing unnecessarily the problems.
It’s a laughter that’s born of the ultimate trust in the God who looks at us all with mercy and tenderness. A laughter that loosens, frees and gives energy to keep walking. That laughter unites. Those who laugh together don’t attack each other or damage one another, because the truly human laughter is born of a heart that knows how to understand and love.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf