By Robin Gomes
Pope Francis on Friday received Vatican employees and their families in Paul VI Hall. In his talk, he urged families to allow themselves to be infected by the joy of the Babe of Bethlehem saying it is the path to holiness.
“Therefore this is my wish: be saints in order to be happy… Holy in flesh and blood, with our character, our defects, even our sins, but ready to let ourselves be ‘infected’ by the presence of Jesus in our midst, ready to rush to Him, like the shepherds, to see this event, this incredible sign that God has given us,” the Pope told his Vatican employees and their families on December 21 in a traditional meeting in the Vatican’s Paul VI audience hall to exchange Christmas greetings.
The Pope who turned 83 on Monday, was particularly pleased to see a 93-year old great-grandmother with her daughter and great-grandchildren, who he said deserves an award.
“Infected” by the joy of Christ’s birth
Drawing attention to the Nativity scene, the Pope said that Our Lady and St. Joseph are happy because, after a thousand worries, they have received this Gift from God with so much faith and so much love. “They are ‘overflowing’ with holiness and therefore with joy.” But it was not easy for them, the Pope said, adding “saints are not born, they become so, and this also applies to them.”
In this regard, the Pope explained, the shepherds are full of joy and hence are also saints because they respond to the angels’ announcement and the Child in the manger. The wonder in the eyes of the shepherd boy in a nativity scene, he said, expresses the astonished joy of those who welcome the mystery of Jesus with the spirit of a child. “This is a trait of holiness: to preserve the ability to be amazed, to marvel at the gifts of God, at his ‘surprises’, and the greatest gift, the ever new surprise, is Jesus.”
In larger Nativity scenes, the Pope pointed out, there are many characters representing various trades such as the cobbler, the water carrier, the blacksmith, the baker and others, all of whom are happy. This is because they are, so to say, "infected" by the joy of the event they are participating in, namely, the birth of Jesus. “So also their work is sanctified by the presence of Jesus, by his coming among us,” the Pope said.
The Argentine Pope then spoke about being holy in the family. It requires some effort in our workplace to reflect just a little bit of the holiness of Jesus, a small ray, with a smile, attention, courtesy or an apology, and the whole work environment becomes more "breathable". He said, this clears the heavy climate that we sometimes create with our arrogance, self-centeredness and prejudices, and we work even better and produce more fruit.
Pope Francis urged his listeners to stop slandering which he said brings much sadness in the workplace and destroys friendship and spontaneity. If one has to criticize, it should be done with the one concerned, not behind his/her back. A good medicine he suggested when tempted to slander is to bite one’s tongue, and you will stop talking ill of others.
The Pope also spoke about “holiness next-door” in the Vatican, his own backyard. This being his 5th Christmas in the Vatican, he said he can testify there are “many saints” who do not make a show but are simple and modest, doing much good in their work and in their relationships with others. They are joyful, not because they laugh, but because they have great serenity within that comes from Jesus, the Emmanuel, God-with-us, and they know how to transmit it to others.
“We are not afraid of holiness. This is the path of joy,” Pope Francis concluded wishing all a Happy Christmas.