In our religious language, a very frequently used word is “blessing,” or “bless.” It is most formally connected with our ritual and the action of a priest. There is a blessing at the end of Eucharist. There are other occasions when we might ask a priest to pray a blessing over religious articles. I have been asked to bless cars and animals. Recently we had a prayer service during which we blessed tools.
At such times, I like to remind people that we watch our language and remember that the priest really does not “bless,” but that we are asking God’s blessing, as we invoke the Holy Trinity.
But, beyond what the priest does, there can be a much wider sense of blessing in our lives. Many people use the word, “blessing,” or “blessed” as a kind of greeting or a parting wish. “Have a blessed day.” Or it can be a word of thanks. “Bless you for doing that.” Sometimes people will refer to themselves in recognition of God’s goodness. “I am truly blessed.”
Our common meal prayer is a request for a blessing upon us and our food, as we show our appreciation for even having food to eat, and it can be a recognition of the cook’s preparation.
Of course, there is the common response to a sneeze: “God bless you!” That always seemed kind of funny to me. Why is a blessing connected with sneezing? Maybe I am missing something. I have never learned the origin of that custom.
On a more serious note, we can see the individual Christian living a good life as being a blessing in the world. I like to connect that idea with other kinds of blessings. For example, on most of our weekend retreats over the years, we have conducted a prayer for healing. When I pray with someone, besides asking God for help and healing for the person, I often ask that they indeed become a blessing to others.
We are to recognize that we as baptized Christians, children of God, bring the presence of Christ into any situation. We can be, in that sense, a blessing to others. We do that not with any arrogance, but rather with gratitude that we can be a Christ-bearer wherever we go.
Another area of blessing could be with parents and grandparents, who can pray a blessing over children, perhaps especially at bed time. And of course we bless ourselves – ask God’s blessing on ourselves – each time we make the Sign of the Cross.
So there is a wide richness in the many uses of the word “blessing.” All of these uses, of course, refer somehow to the action of God in our lives. We are blessed.
– Fr. Tom Zelinski OFM Cap.