Godtalk: Hints of God
Various places within our everyday experience hint that ordinary experience contains more than just the ordinary, that God is there.
One such experience is that of a mother comforting a frightened child at night, using soothing words and gestures to assure the child that he or she need not be afraid, that everything’s all right, the world is in order. In saying this, the mother is expressing something of the confidence implicit in the creed.
Another such intimation of the divine within ordinary experience is laughter. In joyful laughter we intuit our transcendence: given that we are able to laugh in any situation shows that there is something in us that is above that situation, transcending it.
Laughter shows we are on good terms with reality and hence with God. Laughter praises God because it foretells our final state in heaven when we will experience endless joy. In the Beatitudes we hear Jesus saying, ‘blessed are you who are now weeping, for you shall laugh’ (Luke 6.20) suggesting that the happiness of the final state will not just dry away our tears and bring us peace, it will also bring us to laughter, to joy.
‘You shall laugh.’ And because God's Word also has recourse to human words in order to express what shall one day be in eternal life - that is why a mystery of eternity also lies hidden, but real, in everyday life; that is why the laughter of daily life shows that one is on good terms with reality. Laughter is praise of God because it foretells the eternal praise of God at the end of time, when ’those who must weep here on earth shall laugh.’
Does this seem superficial? Human optimism for hope? The naive claim that if I am happy then God is on my side? Indeed, in the Gospels, where is there a recorded incident of Jesus laughing?
But looking for an individual text to prove or disprove a certain point is not a good approach to scripture. The teachings of scripture are best gleaned by looking to scripture as a whole. And if we do that in this case we will find that we are on the right track.
Jesus teaches that laughter will be part of the final state in heaven. ‘You shall laugh!’ But, beyond that, Jesus' message as a whole assures us of joy, a joy that no one can take from us, and laughter is the lively expression of that joy. It is the apex of our final state in heaven.
In laughter therefore, we intuit our transcendence. In laughter we affirm the saying of Julian of Norwich that, in the end, all will be well, and all will be well, and every manner of being will be well - even though our world today is not in that state
Laughter is the joy of our final state. When we laugh we are also, like the mother comforting her child as above, showing something of the confidence implicit in the creed.
Peter Knott SJ