TWENTY-FIRST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – Is 66:18-21 Heb 12:5-7, 11-13 Lk 13:22-30
Who in the World Will Be Saved?
To Whom Does Salvation Come“); Education in Christ; Salvation: What Does It Mean?; Is Salvation Easy?; Are We Smug?; Discipline and Correction.
Anthropologists have never encountered a culture where people do not laugh to express merriment and sociability; even deaf people sometimes laugh out loud. Babies begin laughing at the age of two or three months. The rate of laughter picks up steadily for the next several years, until around the age of six, when the average child laughs 300 times a day. After that, social training and the desire to blend in with one’s peers conspire to dampen liberal laughter. Estimates of how much adults laugh vary widely, from a high of 100 chuckles daily to a dour low of 15, but clearly adults lose their laughter edge along with the talent for ﬁnger-painting.
Some authorities View that decline as a blow to the health of body and spirit. When you laugh robustly, you increase blood circulation, work your abdominal muscles, raise your heart rate, and get the stale air out of your lungs; after a bout of laughter, your blood pressure drops to a lower, healthier level than before the buoyancy began. And there are subtler effects of laughter on the immune and neuro-endocrine systems. Big business is beginning to be persuaded of the ﬁnancial value of laughter on the job.
Our Judeo-Christian tradition includes both comedy and tragedy; we often forget the comedy. Some artists—Botticelli, for example— never painted saints smiling. A Renaissance genius with great poetic imagination, fantasy, and elegance, he became famous for the softness of his light and his skillful use of perspective. Among his renowned paintings on religious themes are many Madonnas, his exquisite “Adoration of the Magi”, and a solemn “Nativity”. But, deeply affected by Savonarola’s preaching, he never painted smiling saints.
Although the Gospels don’t record any instance of Jesus laughing outright, there are instances of his humour; it would be most surprising if he didn’t enjoy, for instance, the wedding ceremony and reception at Cana. All the expressions in the Jewish Scriptures about joy and laughter were, after all, his tradition.
And laughter is an essential part of our heritage. That heritage has pointed out that to laugh is proper to human beings. We instinctively know that at times we must quickly laugh for fear of having to cry, that it is ﬁtting for us to laugh because hope has a happy place with us, and that our destiny, heaven, must contain an inextinguishable laugh. Even though the world be mad, we are born with the gift of laughter. Children jingle with laughter as though they had swallowed sleigh bells, and their laughter is natural until life takes — or we take —it away from them.