Someone told me that seeing a priest always wearing a smile makes her faith even stronger. This old lady is very sick and finds joy and consolation in her faith. She told me that seeing people around her trying to comfort her with words and their presence adds only a little in the joy that she hungers for from people. But every time she encounters a smiling priest her burden becomes a lot lighter.

A priest is supposed to mirror the joy of God. This joy is so powerful that it gives hope to those who have none. It uplifts the spirit of a dying person. It drives away negativity within a person. It could even change the world. One is absolutely mistaken to think that a smile is just a simple gesture.

Look around and you will find misfortunes, poverty, evil, hopelessness, disease, famine, war and fear. You do not even have to go far and wide to realize that these things are realities in life because they are all too obvious to be ignored. The economic and political ills add to the gloomy picture of a seemingly doomed society. These things pull one’s faith into the bottom of human desperations. They give us no reason to smile or even to live. It drains the life out of us. The last thing that people need now is to see someone frowning back at them. What we need is, at the very least, someone who can make our miseries go away even temporarily. A priest, being an instrument of God, should be able to present himself to people in a way that is pleasing and uplifting. People do not want to see a frowning priest but they do not want to see a clown either. They want to see a joyful, lively, enthusiastic and vibrant priest –one who can rejuvenate the spark in people’s faith.

As priests, we are called to be joyful in the midst of affliction. St. Paul said in his letter to the Colossians, “I rejoice when I suffer for you.” If one can be joyful in the midst of affliction, it gives us more reasons to be joyful in the subtleness of life and even more in its grandeur and beauty. Of course every once in a while we feel so down and low but we must always be reminded right away that we need to defeat the evil of unhealthy despair.

As priests, we serve the Church of Christ by spreading his joy. The nativity of our Lord invites us to be joyful. This is what we preach about… the joy of the coming of the Lord both into this world and in every person. We preach about the joy of the love of Jesus for all of us that he manifested in His suffering and death. We preach about the joy of his victory over death wherein all believers partake. We preach about the joy of the promises of Christ –eternal salvation. But, if we are not convinced of these realities, how can we reflect that joy? Our ministry becomes pale and dull. How can we expect people to be joyful if what they see in us is nothing but futility? What do we bring when we visit the sick? What do we say to the prisoners? What do we tell the youth when they come to us asking for guidance or direction? What do we offer the impoverished? If we cannot offer them even a glimmer of hope, we are not joyful in our ministry and we do not deserve to be seen by people who look up to us hoping that they could find God’s hope and joy in us.

As a son, I would rather see a father who smiles and laughs than one who does not. The God I know, our Father in heaven is smiling down on us. He smiles when we fail not because he finds it funny but rather, it is a smile of reassurance. When we fall, he offers us a smile of encouragement. When we are lonely, he offers us a comforting smile. When we are happy, he smiles and laughs with us. We are to bring this joy out into the world to be experienced by all, to inspire and to give life to a person’s dying hope. Let us, therefore, be mirrors of God’s joy.