I don’t think that April Fool’s day is as popular or as widely observed as it used to be. Perhaps we’ve all become a little too sophisticated for the childish pranks associated with the day. Sometimes the news itself is so ridiculous that it can be difficult to take it seriously all the time. One of the better known TV April Fools pranks happened at the BBC in 1957 when they did a feature on Italian peasants climbing trees to bring in the spaghetti harvest.
Following the report it seems that the BBC were inundated with queries about where people could buy spaghetti plants to grow in their gardens. A few years ago I helped out Dympna Moroney on Clare FM by putting on my best French accent and pretended to be an EU commissioner announcing that from the following year; time was going to be measured in the metric system and there would now only be ten hours in a day. It did not elicit the same response as the spaghetti harvest – I’m not sure whether it was the bad maths or the bad French accent that gave the game away.
All of us have been April Fooled at some stage or another in our lives. Did you get salt out of the sugar bowl? Did the lids to the pepper and salt shakers fall completely off with the first shake? Good April Fool jokes and pranks are supposed to strike out at our routines, shake up our perceptions, make something ordinary odd and extraordinary.
Sometimes April Fool is something contrived. Sometimes April Fool just happens. Whether contrived or natural, to be an “April Fool” is to embrace the surprises and new experiences of Spring. As we enter this month of April we are preparing to celebrate the great events of Holy Week. Dare I suggest that Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday is a classic “April Fool” experience.
First, the two disciples Jesus chose to go “borrow” that colt in Bethphage must have been waiting for Jesus to say “April Fool.” But he doesn’t. Borrowing a valuable animal, a pristine, unbroken young colt, was frowned upon and punished in first century Palestine as seriously as horse-thieving was in the Old West. Jesus’ suggested “get out of jail free” card sounds like another “April Fool” — just say, “The Lord needs it.” Yeah. Right. That will work. But . . . it does!
Jesus and his disciples were observant, pious Jews who knew their scripture. His disciples knew the significance of their master riding a young colt into Jerusalem. Surely Jesus chose to enter the city in such a significant, royal, messianic manner because he was planning some sort of popular uprising, or some extraordinary display of power. This Passover Week was obviously going to be a scene of great success. April Fool.
Jesus never flinched from playing the fool in order to fulfil God’s will. He directed and rode in a pilgrimage parade to the tune of “Hosanna” into Jerusalem. His disciples were not scholars or star students. They were fishermen and tax collectors, nobodies and ne’er-do-wells. His foolish path took him into Jerusalem to the chants of “Blessed be” and had him driven out of Jerusalem with a cross beam strapped to his back on his way to Golgotha.
How willing are we to become an April Fool for Christ? Are we willing to admit that we are part of a truly foolish family?
After the ultimate “April Fool” — the April Fool of Christ’s death, the April Fool that destroyed the sting of sin and offered instead complete salvation a whole new raft of fools took float. The Pharisee Saul of Taurus became Paul the Apostle. The libertine, sophisticated Augustine became a father of the faith. Throughout the two thousand years of Christianity the faithful have stepped forward form the safety of anonymity or the security of a well-heeled position to embrace . . . foolishness, a Palm Sunday parade mentality . . . in order to proclaim Christ.
If we get all “dressed up” on Easter Sunday, then Palm Sunday should be the time we get dressed down. Wave palm branches in the car park of the church — even when cars are driving by. Take a risk at caring about someone who is truly risky. Go out on a limb. Take the path usually not taken. Don’t cross the street to avoid a possible problem. Don’t’ be afraid to be on parade. To be different.
To be a follower of the One who never flinched when it came to being a fool for God, is to be an April Fool for Christ. Will you be just that? An April Fool for Christ?
Fr. Brendan Quinlivan, Tulla, Communications Director, Diocese of Killaloe
Clare Champion Article 1st of April 2022