Serious Fun
Serious Fun

Serious Fun

Palm Sunday. Fr Toby Lees preaches on the importance of playing.

When someone completes a task with real ease, you might hear them being congratulated, and their responding, ‘Oh it was nothing, it was child’s play’

But, child’s play is most definitely not nothing, it is absolutely all-consuming. Try telling the child that what they are doing is not important and they should tidy their room instead! And, it’s good that children are fully consumed in their play because child’s play matters and affects the adults we will grow up to be.

In Mere Christianity, CS Lewis has a wonderful little section on child’s play and how we’re all at it, adults included.

He says that child’s play begins the moment we say ‘Our Father.’ When we pray the Our Father, we’re pretend-playing at being children of God.

Now obviously in a very real way we are children of God, that happened by baptism and that can never been taken away from us. But there is a sense in which saying ‘Our Father’ is a little like make believe and play. Let’s take an honest look at what our behaviour outside of that moment of prayer would suggest. Outside of that moment, he suggests that an honest look might reveal ‘a bundle of self-centred fears, hopes, greeds, jealousies and self-conceit all doomed to death.’

But we shouldn’t stop playing, he insists, just because we’re not very good at it, because playing is the way we get better at it. In a very real sense we have to start pretending to be sons and daughters of God in order to become sons and daughters of God.

Sometimes in confession I tell people who are struggling with forgiveness that they need to choose to behave as if they had forgiven the person and allow the feelings to catch up sometime down the line. Sometimes, we have to act at being better to become better.

Reflecting further on child’s play, Lewis notices that most of the time children are playing they are playing at being grown-ups. And in their play he thinks they are developing a moral equivalent of muscle memory. In practising bravery in their war fantasy, in practising compassion and skill in their doctors and nurses game, they are learning a disposition which they will need to be truly brave or compassionate.

Play is so very serious, as well as great fun, because the way we play affects who we become.

I think there’s at least of an element of child’s play in what we do on Palm Sunday with our processions before Mass. On this day, we do not simply hear about the procession on Palm Sunday into Jerusalem, but instead we begin somewhere other than our normal seat and with our palms we process. In the liturgy today, we take to the stage, not just hearing, not just imagining, but doing. I also think it is why movement matters in Mass and the prayer always.

Imagine today what it might have been like to walk like Christ into Jerusalem. Imagine what it is what like to walk through all those cheers knowing that in less than a week they would become jeers, the jeers of people calling for your death, and imagine what it would be like to do it anyway, because it was the good thing to do. Or imagine how easily my ‘yes’ to Christ in a good place can turn into a ‘no’ in a difficult place.

As we stand during the long Passion reading today and think to ourselves that this is really long, imagine the Cross and what if felt like to hang there and to thirst and to see how those you had loved had turned on you. And then know that He did all this for love of you, and this last thing, that’s not our imagination, or at least not the make-believe sort, that’s the Truth we must remember and live by, and begin more to play and act out all the more in our lives.

Readings: Mark 11:1-10 | Isaiah 50:4-7 | Philippians 2:6-11 | Mark 14:1-15:47

Image: Palms for Palm Sunday by Joey Zanotti (CC BY 2.0 DEED)

Fr Toby Lees is assistant priest at Our Lady of the Rosary and St Dominic's, London, and Priest Director of Radio Maria England.

Comments (3)

  • Daniel Blaha

    Walking with Christ today I will try to hear the Hail, Son of David not just in my ears , but also in my heart t.

  • Catherine

    I like your advice about acting as though one has forgiven someone and let the feelings catch up. I did something of the sort this week, although my anger really wasn’t deserved by the other one, and it worked out well. It made me feel a lot better about the other person and about myself!

  • Marion

    “As we stand during the long Passion reading today…” I remember the long standing as a youngster and perhaps worst of all the three-hour fast prior to the commencement of Mass – not simply before expected time of Holy Communion.
    Perhaps your sentence could include ‘stand with our water bottles…’ water bottles seem to be the norm in may South Africa parishes for young and old alike. I am not judging simply stating the obvious.


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