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Let the Easter season get the last laugh

Father Mark Goldasich is the pastor of Sacred Heart parish in Tonganoxie. He has been editor of the Leaven since 1989.

by Father Mark Goldasich

In my file cabinet is a folder labeled “H.” The “H” stands for “humor” and it’s where I pop funny stuff that I come across for future use in this column, in talks . . . or for those tough days when I need a good laugh to lift my spirits.

And yes, I do even use some of those stories in my homilies. It’s particularly appropriate at this time of year as we enter the Easter season. We can thank the monks in 15th-century Bavaria for the idea of the “risus paschalis” or “Easter laughter.”

Apparently, homilies on Easter and throughout the season had to contain a story that made the congregation laugh. It was symbolic of the joy people felt at the resurrection of Jesus and a way to mock Satan who thought he’d “won” when Jesus died on the cross.

That idea is captured beautifully in this story about a 3-year-old girl named Nicole who was as eager for Easter to come as she’d been for Christmas.

The little girl had picked out a new dress and white bonnet. While shopping for new shoes to go with her outfit, she said, “I can’t wait for Easter, Daddy!” Her father asked, “Do you know what Easter means, honey?”

With arms raised and a smile on her, she shouted, “Surprise!”

Indeed, her father thought, that was the best word to describe Easter. Surprise, death! Surprise, sin! Surprise, mourning disciples! Surprise, modern humanity! He’s alive! (Story adapted from “Illustrations Unlimited,” edited by James S. Hewett.)

In a recent post on, Pastor Jeff Harvey highlights some benefits of using humor when preaching:

• It makes the preacher more approachable and relatable.

• It surprises the congregation, making it more open and receptive to the message.

• It captures people’s attention, allowing them to better remember the message.

For example, Harvey tells the story of 5-year-old Billy who was asked to recite this verse from Luke’s Gospel (24:4) for the church’s Easter program: “He is not here; he is risen!”

Despite practicing it many times, when he stood in front of the congregation, he froze and couldn’t remember what to say.

The religious ed director leaned over and whispered the verse in the little boy’s ear. Billy’s whole face lit up then and he grabbed the microphone and proclaimed confidently: “He’s not here; he’s in prison!”

Another of Harvey’s stories concerns a man who vacationed in the Holy Land with his wife and mother-in-law. Tragically, the mother-in-law died unexpectedly.

The following day, the son-in-law met with a local funeral director who offered two options: “You can ship the body back to the States for $5,000, or you can bury her here in the Holy Land for $150.”

Immediately, the man said they’d ship the body home. The funeral director was intrigued and asked, “Why would you pay $5,000 to ship your mother-in-law home when you could bury her here for $150?”

The man replied, “Over 2,000 years ago, a man died and was buried here. Three days later, he rose from the dead and I just can’t take that chance!”

May we all be blessed to be “holy fools” this Easter season. May this “Clown’s Prayer” of Smiles Unlimited ministry guide us:

“Lord, as I stumble through this life, help me to create more laughter than tears, dispense more happiness than gloom, spread more cheer than despair. . . . Never let me forget that my total effort is to cheer people, make them happy and forget at least for a moment all the unpleasant things in their lives. And Lord, in my final moment, may I hear you whisper: ‘When you made my people smile, you made me smile.’”

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Fr. Mark Goldasich

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