Cachinnation. Guffaw. Cackle. Chortle. Bray. Titter. Howl. Snort. Hee-haw. These are just some of the words I found when I searched on-line for types of laughs. My favorite was “cachinnation” mostly because I had never heard of it before. It means “loud convulsive laughter.” I searched for these words because I know from my own experience that laughter can signify all sorts of things: pleasure, knowing, humor, bitterness, pain, and even despair.
I drove myself home, the day after college graduation, crying my eyes out to the soundtrack of Avenue Q. ... Driving home the day after graduation with tears streaming down my face, I listened to the characters Princeton and Kate Monster reminisce about their undergraduate years in the song, “I Wish I Could Go Back to College.” Princeton and Kate reminisce about meal plans, white boards on their dorm doors, and late nights writing papers. Finally, they acknowledge that if they could go back to college, it wouldn’t be the same: “I would walk the Quad, and think, ‘Oh my God, these kids are so much younger than me.” The truth for Kate and Princeton, and for me, and for the disciples in today’s Gospel reading, is that the end has been an inevitable part of the story from the moment it began.
Marcos tells me lots of things I want to hear. And then sometimes, he tells me things I would rather not hear. One day, early in our relationship, he said: “You really have to meet my niece Helga. You would love her. She likes to talk almost as much as you do!”
Well, I do like to talk despite being introverted by nature. I like the give and take of conversation. I like to get to know people by the language they use, the word choices they make, the stories they tell, and the way in which they listen – or don’t. How like me, then, to enter a profession in which I have a captive audience week after week!
Paraklete is the Greek word that Jesus uses to describe the Holy Spirit whom he will send after his death, resurrection, and ascension. Paraklete, which has nothing to do with parakeets, is a difficult word to translate. Literally, it means something like “the one who is called to one’s side.” Sometimes it is translated as “comforter,” or “helper,” both of which get at important aspects of what the word means. But the translation our text uses, and one that reminded me of that crooked TV lawyer Saul Goodman, is “advocate.” At the time, the word paraklete had a legal connotation: a paraklete could be someone who would stand up on your behalf in court to plead your cause before a judge — what we might now think of as an attorney.
I’m struck by the image of the Holy Spirit as an advocate in the legal sense — it’s a much more forceful image of the Holy Spirit than we might glean from words like “comforter” or “helper.”