The deacon had just finished his homily when, into the silence… he sneezed. The response came back, as one voice, from the whole congregation: “God bless you!” We typically say that when someone sneezes. The mother held up her child over the font as they entered church. “Bless yourself,” Mama said. The operative word in both of these scenarios is bless.
People from Genesis onward through religious history have blessed themselves and one another. Noah blessed God for safety through the flood. We read the story of how Jacob stole his father Isaac’s blessing from his brother Esau in Genesis 27. The psalms have us bless God, too, as in Psalm 33.1: “I will bless the Lord at all times…” At the Last Supper, Jesus took the bread, blessed, broke it and , gave it to his disciples (Mark 14.22). In 1 Corinthians 10.16 Paul admonishes his readers to treasure the Eucharist. ”The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not participation in the blood of Christ?” Our history, as a believing people, is a lifetime of blessing given and received.
At least, it should be. The liturgical blessings at Mass and other ritual occasions are rightly the prerogative of the ordained – the priest or deacon. In many of our parishes, we raise our hands to participate in these official blessings.
John O’Donohue, whose name give him away as Irish, draws on his cultural heritage to remind us that you and I are to give as well as receive blessings. We can bless our children aloud with some encouraging words as well as a sign of the cross before they go to sleep or leave for school. Spouses can bless each other when decisions need to be made or the future is uncertain, or sometimes, ”just because.”
Lord, we can say, bless these ingredients that will go into my family’s meal. May what we share at the table bring us closer to you and one another. Lord, bless me as I put on these new clothes. May I wear them with thankfulness. Lord, bless the person being cared for in the ambulance going by. Lord, bless the EMTs.
“A blessing,” says John O’Donohue “is a circle of light drawn around a person to protect, heal and strengthen… The beauty of a blessing is its belief that it can effect what unfolds… A blessing is different from a greeting, a hug, a salute, or an affirmation; it opens a different door in human encounter…When you invoke a blessing, you are creating a ‘sheltering wall’ of rest and peace around a person.” (John O’Donohue, To Bless the Space Between Us, pp198-203)
So don’t be bashful, as though others may laugh or think you strange, when you sign off by saying “Blessings!” Do not relinquish your baptismal right to bless. Choose to be a “blesser” in life, if you not already. Use your own words, or someone else’s:
May neighbors respect you
Trouble neglect you.
The angels protect you..
And heaven accept you. Amen.
Do come to our motherhouse for these events!
Wed. Oct. 22nd, 7 to 8.30 pm
Lisa Scata “So Your Children Don’t Want to Come to Mass with You?
And / or
3 consecutive Mondays beginning Oct 27
‘Freshen Your Thinking About Catholic Essentials”
I’ll be guiding that discussion. No test afterwards!