Pope Francis today gave the traditional Christmas greetings to Vatican employees and their families, particularly praising a 93-year-old great-grandmother, there with her daughter, and her daughters child and grandchildren. “The family is beautiful like this,” he exclaimed, saying it is a grace.
The Holy Father went on to speak of the joy of Christmas, remarking that often we get caught up in so many things that the “quintessential joyous feast” ends up having only a superficial joy.
The answer he gave by citing Léon Bloy: “The only great tragedy in life, is not to become a saint.”
Joy, Francis affirmed, is linked to being saints.
He invited us to look at the Nativity scene to see who is happy there, and asked the many children to answer the question, teasing them that they love to look at the figures of the Nativity and irritate their parents by moving the figurines when they’ve been carefully arranged.
So who is happy in the Nativity scene? Our Lady and Saint Joseph are full of joy: They look at the Child Jesus and they are happy because, after a thousand worries, they have accepted this gift of God, with so much faith and so much love. They are “overflowing” with holiness and therefore with joy.
Mary and Joseph are full of joy, he affirmed, but it wasn’t easy for them either. Saints aren’t born saints, but become saints, he said.
The shepherds, too, are full of joy, the pope continued, and this is because they too are holy: “They responded to the announcement of the angels, they immediately rushed to the stable and they recognized the sign of the Child in the manger.”
A trait of holiness, he added, is to “preserve the capacity to be amazed, to wonder at the gifts of God,” especially God’s greatest surprise of all, the gift of Jesus.
Also in the traditional Nativity scenes, Francis continued, we see workers who are happy. “Why? Because they are ‘infected’ by the joy of the event in which they participate, that is, the birth of Jesus. So their work is also sanctified by the presence of Jesus, by His coming among us.”
From them, we draw lessons for our own work, the pope said. “If each person reflects a little of Jesus’ holiness — it takes very little, a small ray, a smile, a little attention, a courtesy, an apology – then the whole work environment becomes more ‘breathable,’ does it not?”
And as he’s so often done, the pope warned against gossip. Pray for those you don’t like, but don’t speak badly of them, he urged. Bite your tongue instead, so that the gossip doesn’t come out.
The pope praised the “ordinary” sanctity found in the workplace, saying that in the Vatican, he sees a lot of it.
I know some of you who are an example of life: they work for the family, and always with that smile, with that healthy, beautiful industriousness. Sanctity is possible. It is possible. This is now my sixth Christmas as Bishop of Rome, and I must say that I have known several saints who work here. Saints who live their Christian life well, and if they do something bad they apologize. But they go ahead, with the family. One can live in this way. It is a grace, and it is so beautiful. Usually they are people who are not show offs; simple, modest people, but who do so much good in their work and in relationships with others. And they are joyful people; not because they always laugh, no, but because they have a great serenity inside and know how to transmit it to others. And where does that serenity come from? Always from him, Jesus, the God-with-us. He is the source of our joy, both personal and family, both at work. So my wish is this: to be holy, to be happy. But not picture-postcard saints! Normal saints. Saints in flesh and blood, with our character, our faults, even our sins – let us ask for forgiveness and go ahead – but ready to let ourselves be “infected” by Jesus’ presence in our midst, ready to come to Him, like the shepherds, to see this Event, this incredible sign that God has given us. “I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people” (Lk 2: 10). Will we go see Him? Or will we be occupied with things? Dear brothers and sisters, let us not be afraid of holiness. I assure you, it is the path of joy. Merry Christmas to all!