Good humour

Divine Play

Can we talk about something other than Covid19?

What about Catholic jokes? Will that do?

I usually enjoy religious humour. It seems to come from solid faith that is without doubt or fear.

And sometimes the laughter it evokes, unwraps a little parable that stays with me.

I still carry an old Marist Messenger confessional joke about a man who worked in a timber yard. For twenty years he had been stealing timber to build himself a house and outbuildings.

The priest was concerned at the enormity of this theft. He said. “My son, that is a serious sin and it requires serious penance. I want you to make a retreat.”

The man brightened. “Sure thing, Father! You show me the plans and I’ll get the timber.”

So where is the parable?

Foe me it is a warning about repetition, the laundry list, the attempts to dismiss wrongdoing before learning from it.

At a superficial level, reconciliation can be partly about self-protection and partly our desire for goodness; but we know there is much more to it than that.

Spiritual awareness grows through the tension between darkness and light.

Our shadow is light unborn.

We should not be afraid to be human, although sometimes we need help to work with the way God has made us.

I believe I can’t not dismiss my failure with a few Hail Marys.

What I call sin, will keep on repeating itself if I don’t see the shadow as a teacher.

There’s no getting away from this because every strength has its own shadow. We can’t separate the two: although we try to focus on the strength.

The tension between light and shadow seems to work like this:

  • The high energy person who has a gift of leadership, is also likely to have a quick temper.
  • Discernment is a gift, but it can tip over to judgemental attitudes and be ready to condemn others.
  • Those who seem to have infinite patience can fall into inertia.
  • Good communicators can be poor listeners.

My own strong maternal instincts have their place but when the shadow emerges, I become the caricature of the controlling Yiddish mother.

How do we identify our shadow? That’s not too difficult. Other people with the same shadow, will be a mirror for us.

When someone who tries to mother me, I want to run for the hills.

Every shadow has one thing in common. It is attached to that “ne first” survival instinct we call the ego.

The good news is that the more we work with the shadow, the more it will come over to the light.

However, we can never entirely lose that “me first” instinct.

Beating one’s chest and proclaiming “I am a sinner!” Still comes from “me, me, me.”

So what can we do about the egoic nature of the shadow?

Clearly there is no point in being like the old Jewish rabbis who loudly lamented because they could not escape selfishness.

So perhaps the answer lies in that good old tool of Catholic humour.

We can laugh at ourselves.

  • Joy Cowley is a wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and retreat facilitator.
Additional reading

News category: Analysis and Comment.

Tags: , ,