“Simeon took the child in his arms and blessed God.”
Tuesday, 29 December 2020
To ‘bless’ someone conventionally means we ask God to show favour and protection, to be present with them. Simeon takes the child Jesus into his arms in the temple and blesses God. We bless those we share life with, those we love.
But to bless is to do more than ask for God’s favour. When we bless another, we offer them gentleness, understanding and forgiveness. We give them something to keep. Jesus blesses bread at the Last Supper. He leaves us with something to keep in the sacrament of the Eucharist. And from that blessing, from the Eucharist, gentleness, understanding and forgiveness flows and stays with us.
We are invited to bless those we share life with, to ask God to look upon them with favour and to protect them. Gentleness, understanding and forgiveness should also flow to others from us when we bless them.
When we consciously choose to bless others, especially our family members and those we share life with, our focus shifts from critique and irritation to acceptance of one another and gratitude. The absence of blessing can often lead to mistrust, anger and disunity. We constrict the hearts of others when we don’t bless them and, sadly, without realising it, our hearts are choked too.
Christian spirituality teaches us that we receive by giving. We cannot make ourselves happy, but we can contribute to the well-being of others when we bless them. We cannot force anyone to bless us, but we can offer others our blessing. Paradoxically, our happiness and wholeness lie not in our ability to achieve it but in our ability to give to others. Somehow, in the mystery of human life, when we truly give to others, we receive. St Francis of Assisi understood this well in the famous prayer he wrote.
Fr Ronald Rolheiser says that when we act like God – when we bless – because we begin to feel God. And God never suffers from mistrust, anger and disunity.
As we continue to reflect on the Holy Family this week, pause today and ask who in your family – whatever form that may take – needs your blessing today. Bless them. Ask the Lord for favour and protection for them and let gentleness, understanding and forgiveness flow to them from your heart.