Chaplain's Comments

How do I make my life a marketplace? As our global economy falters and staggers to its knees, the answer to this question is all the more evident. Anytime I allow the vices of greed and vanity to take precedence in my life, I am turning my life into a marketplace; I take another course or two to be more marketable. I probably pound the pavement and surf the web selling my wares as human resource, trying to land on the best job. I engage in getting richer quicker exercises.

I engage in activities designed to help me to make the most of my life in exchange for as little as possible effort, time or treasure. I constantly sell out to more efficient means of living comfortable, using my money, my time, and my energy to purchase, keep inventory of, and protect my worldly goods, I spend more time driving my children around to many activities designed to improve their lives, than I use to pray Life himself into our days.

The picture of the temple purged by Jesus in this weekend's gospel, with a whip of cord is much rawer, than being whipped out of the cattle, the sheep, the birds, the sellers and all the money changers. Perhaps there were a few coins scattered on the floor amidst dirt and filth of dung and puddles of urine. Not a pretty sight, it is true but there was peace. Is there room within me where there is a place for a quiet conversation with the Lord of my life? There is nothing to buy, nothing to sell, nothing to capture care and worry, nothing to produce anxiety. God's presence requires only one show up, with open heart and ears, and with eyes uncluttered enough to see simply the Light.

Rejoice always! Says St Paul, may humour remind us this "Laetare Sunday" of Lent, not to take ourselves deadly serious. That goes for all people at the very top. Once, when Pope John XXIII was in Rome, he got a letter from a little boy named Bruno.

"Dear Pope" wrote Bruno, "I am undecided. I don't know if I want to be a policeman or pope. What do you think? "My dear Bruno," wrote the pope, 'if you want my opinion, learn to be a policeman, for that cannot be improvised. As regards being pope, anyone can become the pope. The proof is that I have become one. If you are ever in Rome, please stop by and I will be glad to talk this over with you".

Joy, humour and laughter show one' faith in God. For us Christians, an essentially hopeful outlook shows us as people that you believe in the Resurrection, in the power of life over death and in the power of love over hatred, don't you think that after the Resurrection the disciples of Jesus were joyful? All will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well, as the fourteenth-century mystic Blessed Julian of Norwich said. For believers in general, humour shows your trust in God who will ultimately make all things well. Joy reveals faith.

Some years ago when the then superior general of the Society of Jesus, Peter Hans Kolvenbach, came to visit a house of formation in the States, the novices were asked to come up with one question each to ask Fr. Kolvenbach. One of the novices who secretly wanted to impress him, thought for a while on the best way to make an impact, decided to question on the fact of the declining numbers. After the Novice Director greeted the General formally, and when they all moved into the living room, they were then invited to ask questions. "Father" said the novice, "What is the best way to increase vocations". Everyone expected him to respond by saying, "We have to do more recruiting in colleges or parishes or we have to do more advertising to get the word out about Jesuits".

His response was as surprising as it was memorable. He said, "Live your own vocation joyfully!" That's good advice for everyone. Joy attracts people to God and Happiness attracts us into relationship. Why would anyone want to join a group of miserable people? Humour brings us back down to earth and reminds us of our place in God's universe. "Angels can fly," wrote G K Chesterton, "because they can take themselves lightly".

The Dalai Lama, a supremely joyful man who in his public lectures freely admits his own struggles in the spiritual life. He radiates humility. In the documentary film "Dalai Lama Renaissance", he is shown sitting before an audience saying, "We don't even want a pain from a mosquito. I don't want it"! He laughingly tells how he tries to make peace with a mosquito's taking blood form him time and again. He is human, like the rest of us. And toward the end of his talk he loses his train of thought and exclaims, "I forgot what I was saying. The mosquito took my idea"!

The great Catholic theologian Karl Rahner noted that the one who laughs is the one who "does not adapt everything to himself, the one who is free from self". And this is not just Catholic, one of the overriding themes of the book of 'The wit of Martin Luther' is how Luther used humour to remind himself of the limitations of human knowledge when it comes to God. "Humour was for Luther," writes the Luther scholar Eric Gritsch, "the guard to prevent him from crossing the frontier to speculation about God and human life beyond its earthly existence". Humour served as a reminder of his own humanity and humility.

"Let me have too deep a sense of humour ever to be proud, Let me know my absurdity before I act absurdly. Let me realise that when I am humble I am most human, most truthful, and most worthy of your serious consideration", Daniel Lord, an American Jesuit priest.

Please refer to last week's column here