A Catholic Monthly Magazine

A Smile out of Nowhere

By Fr Kevin Bates SM

We’ve all probably had the experience of a stranger offering us a smile as we pass them by. We could be sitting on a bus, at a restaurant or be walking along when eyes meet and seemingly out of nowhere a smile joins us for a brief moment. 

The giver of the smile moves on and you’ll possibly never meet again, yet the moment has served to brighten your day. You’ve recognised that you share the planet with this person and that life isn’t half bad as a result!

We may or may not remember the momentary smile for very long, but for a little while at least it blessed us. 

In some cultures these smiles out of nowhere are second nature and occur with ease. In our western society they are more of a surprise. In our daily travels in this part of the world we tend to keep to ourselves, respecting each other’s ‘personal space’.

The light touch of these encounters is a small icon, a fleeting glimpse, a tiny sacrament of God’s presence, even though thoughts of God may be the furthest thing from either person’s mind. Nevertheless, God is at work there, longing to be a partner in our day’s story.

In the mystery of the Blessed Trinity we celebrate the ultimate smile out of nowhere if you like. The eternal love between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is as utterly transparent, immediately present and spontaneous as any stranger’s smile. 

Here there is no expectation, agenda or manipulation. The Love between the three Persons of the Trinity simply is. Love, being what it is can’t help itself and spills over into the wondrous mystery of creation. Our ever-expanding universe responds to God’s greeting in a seemingly infinite variety of ways. 

On our own little planet, the array of responses to God’s loving look are beyond counting. In celebrating the mystery of the Trinity, we celebrate the love that makes possible everything that is so it’s a time to stop and be thankful. It’s also an opportunity to sharpen our senses and to become more alert to the touch of God that brushes past us each and every moment we are here. 

In response we don’t need to do much as this smile out of nowhere is happy in offering itself to us. Of course we could smile back, passing it on in recognition of the extraordinary gift of creation that this Divine glance creates and sustains.  

We could get very lyrical about all this until we are pulled up short by the reality of the world around us, and sometimes within us, where this Divine presence is ignored or discounted as being nothing at all. 

The uninhibited pursuit of wealth, beauty or success, can all serve to block our view to the point where we lose touch with God. Survival may be mostly on our mind and so we don’t have time for such reverie, after all it’s not going to put food on the table or pay the bills. 

Even if we become so self-absorbed that our own little world is all that catches our interest, that most creative of loves waits patiently until we allow entry, waiting a lifetime if necessary. 

While we may long for our world to come to know this Loving look, we need to exercise Love’s own patience with each other until Love catches up with us all. 

Next time you receive a smile out of nowhere, give it a second look and recognise the sacredness of this tiny moment. You may be surprised at how often the loving look of God is reaching out to you, inviting you to pass it on when the opportunity arises, knowing that you are in the best of company, that of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as their unbounded grace leaps out from your beautiful smile. 

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