“There is hope for the future because God has a sense of humor and we are funny to God.” ~ Bill Cosby
My memory for today’s edition of “Memory Monday” is forever linked with the feast of Pentecost, which is celebrated in Christianity next Sunday. Not that this memory actually happened on Pentecost – I can’t even remember when exactly this event happened. But every single year I sit in church on this feast and listen to the readings. And every year, I can’t help but break out into a huge grin during the first reading. The smirk is unstoppable; I just can’t help it. This is the story of my secret smile. To some this story may seem irreverent, but I’ve always thought God has a sense of humor. And if He does, He was likely laughing along with me all those years ago.
When I was between the age of 20 and 24, I had a certain group of friends. We called ourselves a “prayer group” and we were a mix of single and married 20- and 30-something Catholics. Each Saturday night, we would gather in each other’s homes for an evening of singing and charismatic prayer, which was followed by socializing and fellowship that cemented our friendships. We were a loosely defined group of 15 to 25 people. Some people came and went, some were always there, and occasionally invited guests or friends would expand us into an even larger group.
One Saturday night, one of our larger crowds gathered in Debbie’s basement apartment. We usually spread ourselves around the room in a circle, using all available sofas and chairs as well as the floor. Fortunately, Deb’s living room was large enough for at least 20 of us to gather comfortably. There was no agenda to our meetings; sometimes we would sing – several members played the guitar for accompaniment, sometimes we would read from the bible or share a story, sometimes we would pray loudly, and sometimes we would sit in silence. Usually we would do all of these things in the course of our “meeting” – as the spirit moved us.
This particular evening, a quiet came upon the group and we all sat in silence either praying or thinking. In this deep silence, one member of our party – I will call him Harry (not his real name) – had the embarrassing misfortune to… Well, there are a lot of ways to say it – “broke wind” or “passed gas” - he farted. Rather loudly, and the surrounding silence made the sound seem even louder.
Harry was clearly embarrassed, and he apologized to the group as he blushed a deep shade of red.
To our credit, we remained silent. After all, we were adults. But, while silent, we were each desperately trying to keep our eyes on the ground and away from each other.
The sheer humor of the event was simply too much for our friend Sue. She could no longer stifle a laugh and let out a loud cackle.
One laugh was all it took – the entire group exploded with laughter. As it turns out, farts are as funny to adults as they are to toddlers, and the fact that we were all supposed to be “seriously” praying made it even funnier.
This group had several people with what I call “contagious” laughter – if you heard their laugh, you’d laugh even harder. We laughed until we all had tears streaming from our eyes. Every time we tried to settle down, someone else would begin laughing again.
The waves of laughter continued for several minutes. As the group began to calm down, one man spoke up – Tim. Tim had a wonderful sense of humor and a penchant for story-telling. Although he had been laughing along with everyone else, he suddenly had a rather serious expression on his face and was holding an open bible in his hands. He spoke loudly: “I’d like to share a reading.”
A shocked calm settled over the group. I, for one, was surprised that Tim, of all people, would bring us back into seriousness and lead us back into prayer.
In the newfound silence, Tim cleared his throat and began to read from the bible, choosing the second chapter of Acts of the Apostles. He proclaimed: “When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were…”
He had us at “wind”. We laughed until our sides hurt, and the “prayer” meeting was officially over for the evening.
Thanks to Tim – and Harry – for making me smile every year at Pentecost!