Humor in the Spiritual Life HN Blog
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Humor in the Spiritual Life

Humor in the Spiritual Life

By:  Eric Thomason March 13, 2021

Jesus was funny. He still is.

Think I’m wrong? I challenge you to pray with these texts:

Sons of Thunder: James and John are frustrated with their lack of successful preaching—so they ask Jesus if they can call down his Father’s wrath upon the town (Luke 9:54).

 Jesus declines, but Mark 3:17 notes that he called them the “sons of thunder”.  Is this not a gently teasing nickname? It’s genuinely funny. And Our Lord is teaching his apostles something with this teasing—that judgment belongs to God alone.

I can imagine the other apostles bringing this up from time to time: “Hey John, I noticed Peter forget to pray before eating, so you probably shouldn’t sit by him. You might get hit by the lightning bolt!

Fishers of Men: When Jesus first calls Andrew and Peter to follow him, they are in the midst of their lifework of fishing. So, Jesus makes an immediate play on words: “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:18-20).

What the heck is a “fisher of men”? It’s a weird image but it’s catchy. You can imagine Andrew and Peter, saying: “What did he just say? Fish for men? What does that even mean? Let’s go find out.” Jesus’s play on words puts them off balance, causes them to pause their routine, and opens them to something new from God.

Other examples abound. A few more to pray with:

Jesus calling Herod “that fox” (Luke 13:32);

Comparing a splinter to a full-blown log (Matthew 7:3);

Don’t let one of your hands know what the other is doing—a vivid but impossible image (Matthew 6:3);

Saying false prophets wear “sheep’s clothing” (Matthew 7:15);

Jesus’ sharp back and forth with Nathaniel (John 1:44-51).

Now, I’m no Scripture scholar, and these are just my observations. But I have for company at least, one well-respected Catholic thinker: the inestimable G. K. Chesterton who ended his classic Orthodoxy by musing on Our Lord’s secret mirth.

Or consider the famous story of St. Lawrence’s martyrdom. Lawrence, being burned to death on a grate suggested to his executioners that he was “done” on one side and they should flip him over. That’s funny! A bit gruesome to be sure, but it captures the confidence we all should have in the face of persecution (“Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” John 16:33). What’s even funnier? The Church made Lawrence the patron saint of cooks!

The Church is a family, and families not only work together and endure together and weep together; they also laugh together.

So, lighten up! And: “And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites…Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.” (Matthew 6:16).


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About the Author Eric ThomasonEric Thomason is a husband, father, and lawyer.  He has degrees from Gonzaga University (history), University of Dallas (theology), and Notre Dame (law). He is also ambidextrous.


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