Cardinal Dolan on humor, joy and the spiritual life

He appeared at Fordham University last night, in a conversation with Stephen Colbert that was moderated by Fr. James Martin, SJ.  Here’s part of the cardinal’s opening remarks:

My assignment was to share with you for a few moments what you might call the theological reasons for laughter. Why would a person of faith be cheerful? Why is a crabby believer a contradiction?

Here’s my reason for joy: the cross.

You heard me right: the cross of Christ!

See, when Jesus suffered and died on the cross on that hill called Calvary, on that Friday strangely called “Good,” literally, the “lights went out” as even the sun hid in shame. Literally, the earth sobbed with convulsions of sorrow as an earthquake occurred.

Jesus, pure goodness, seemed bullied to death by undiluted evil;Love, jackbooted by hate;
Mercy incarnate, smothered by revenge;
Life itself, crushed by death.

It seemed we could never smile again…

But, then came the Sunday called Easter!

The sun – S-U-N – came up, and the Son – S-O-N – came out as He rose from the dead.

Guess who had the last word? God!

Hope, not despair;

Faith, not doubt;

Love, not spite;

Light, not an eclipse of the sun;

Life, not the abyss of death.

“He who laughs last, laughs best…” …and we believers have never stopped smiling since that Resurrection of Jesus from the dead!

So, as the Bible teaches us, if God loves us so much that he didn’t even spare His only Son, well, then, “nothing can separate us from the love of God,” can it?

So, Good Friday did not have the last word…Easter did! That why I can laugh.

Because I believe all is God’s providential hands, and, that – the Bible again – “All will work out for those who believe.”

Lord knows there are plenty of Good Fridays in our lives…but, they will not prevail. Easter will. As we Irish claim, “Life is all about loving, living, and laughing, not about hating, dying, and moaning.

That’s why a crabby, griping, whining believer is an oxymoron!

That’s why we say, “Joy is the infallible sign of God’s presence.”

I saw it in Haiti when I went there with Catholic Relief Services right after the devastating earthquake two-and-a-half years ago – crying, horror, death, anguish – you bet, in abundance. But, still, a resilience and a hope in a people clinging onto faith after centuries of oppression and grind.

I see it every time I visit the pediatric oncology department at Sloan –Kettering – beautiful, little, innocent children, baldheaded, emaciated by chemo, but they and their folks still radiating an interior trust and calm such that they can smile while I’m choking up.

I see it every time I visit cloistered nuns. Eventhough they posses nothing of earthly value, but the clothes on their back and the prayerbook in their hands; eventhough they live a life of silence, penance, enclosure and virginity, unknown to most of us, they still laugh heartily and, Stephen, they are the best audience I could ask for in roaring at my corny jokes.

A young man in college once approached me as a parish priest to say he wanted to become Catholic. When I asked him why, he replied, “Last week I was at the wake of a Catholic man I admired very much, who died suddenly, still young. And his family, while mourning him deeply, could still laugh, as if they knew it would all be ok.”

Faith in the cross of Christ, and hope in His Resurrection, does that….

…which makes it providential that we’d be talking about joy on this day in the Catholic calendar when we celebrate The Triumph of the Cross.

Thanks for listening!”

Read it all.