Pope Francis greets a girl from the Pope John XXIII Community Pope Francis greets a girl from the Pope John XXIII Community  (VATICAN MEDIA Divisione Foto)

Pope to children: God gazes at us with eyes of love

Pope Francis meets with children and staff from the Pope John XXIII Community, and encourages young people to care for one another with the same love that God has for them.

By Devin Watkins

Meeting with young people assisted by the Pope John XXIII Community Association on Saturday, Pope Francis praised the intuition of Fr. Oreste Benzi, the Italian-born priest who founded the community in 1968 to assist people on the margins of society.

Members of the community—an international association of the faithful of pontifical right—strive to share their lives with the poor and oppressed, living with them 24 hours a day.

God’s loving gaze

The Pope noted that each of the children present for the audience has their own name, saying that each person is a unique individual whom God knows by name.

“God knows us each by our name and face,” he said. “Each person is a unique son or daughter of God, and a brother or sister of Jesus.”

Pope Francis added that those who assist the children are also called to look at each child with the eyes of God.

“How does God look at us? With the gaze of love. God sees our limits and helps us to bear them. But God sees above all our heart, and looks at each person in our fullness.”

We know, said the Pope, that we can only achieve the perfection of Christ’s loving gaze in the fullness of heaven, but we are still called in this life to seek to embrace the love of God as well as we can.

Smile as a blossom of love

Pope Francis went on to consider how a child reacts when they are welcomed into a community with open, loving arms.

A smile comes naturally when they are welcomed with love, he said. Even though the child may have developmental issues, they still smile, said the Pope. “Why?” he wondered. “Because they feel loved and welcomed exactly as they are.”

Something similar happens when a newborn child is first placed in their mother’s arms, since they already seek to return that smile looking down on them.

“A smile is a flower that blossoms into the warmth of love.”

Families built on Christian love

The Pope then noted that each child at the audience shares the experience of living in a care home, like those run by the Pope John XXIII Community.

When confronted with children who behaved badly, Fr. Benzi loved the children like God does and sought to fill their lack of parental love with the love of a community.

“This experience has proliferated in Italy and other countries,” he said, “and is characterized by being welcomed into a home of people who truly welcome them as children regenerated in Christian love.”

In such a welcoming home, said Pope Francis, there is space for all sorts of children, including those with disabilities, the elderly, foreigners, and “anyone who needs a stable place from which to start over.”

Sharing love and praying constantly

In conclusion, Pope Francis encouraged the children to respond to the love they have received with both prayer and the desire to share that love with others.

“God listens to your prayers for peace, even if it does not seem like it. We believe that God grants peace immediately, even today. He gives it do us, but it is up to us to welcome it into our hearts and lives.”

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14 January 2023, 11:45