Pope Francis fulfilled another important Christmas tradition on Saturday morning when he met with Vatican employees and their families in the Paul VI Audience Hall and encouraged them to rediscover the importance of a smile.
The Pope said he was inspired by his recent visit to Thailand, a country where people are always smiling. This experience made him reflect on how much smiles are “a typically human expression of love and affection”, he said.
Pope Francis used the example of how the smile of a newborn baby prompts us to smile back, experiencing “a simple, naive emotion”. The child’s smile is “powerful”, said the Pope, “because it is new, pure, like spring water, and awakens an intimate nostalgia for childhood in us adults”.
Jesus is the smile of God
“Jesus is the smile of God”, said Pope Francis, “He came to reveal to us the love of our Heavenly Father, His goodness”, and the first way He did this was to smile at His parents, “like every newborn child in this world”. We relive this experience when we contemplate the Christ Child in the manger, continued the Pope.
We feel God smiling at us, at all the world’s poor, “at all those who await salvation, who hope for a more fraternal world, where there is no more war and violence, where every man and woman can live in dignity as a son and daughter of God”.
Here in the Vatican, and in the various offices of the Holy See, we too “need to let ourselves be renewed by the smile of the Child Jesus”, said Pope Francis. “May His disarming goodness purify us from the waste that often encrusts our hearts, preventing us from giving the best of ourselves”.
“The quality of work goes hand in hand with the human quality of relationships”, continued the Pope. “This is especially true for us, who work in the service of the Church and in the name of Christ”.
Needing God’s smile
The Pope admitted that, for many reasons, sometimes it can be difficult to smile. That’s when we need God’s smile, he said: only He can help us. Other times, when things are going well, we may forget about others who are struggling: “Even then we need God’s smile to strip us of false security and bring us back to the taste for simplicity and gratuitousness”.
Like Mary and Joseph, “let us welcome Him… and we too can bring others a humble, simple smile”. Because a smile, concluded Pope Francis, “is like a caress”.