A blessing is a word to describe a prayer asking for God’s favor and protection. It is the sign that God is at work to direct us in the right path. Essentially, we are being prepared to receive His grace when we are the recipient of a blessing.
Matthew described blessings in his Gospel when he shared the story of Jesus at the Sermon of the Mount and clarified what is central to being a good follower of Jesus. This is outlined in the Gospel of St. Matthew (5:3-10), known as the Beatitudes!
Blessed are …
- The poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (verse 3)
- The meek: for they shall possess the land. (verse 4)
- They who mourn: for they will be comforted.(verse 5)
- Those who hunger and thirst for after justice: for they shall have their fill. (verse 6)
- The merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. (verse 7)
- The clean of heart: for they will see God. (verse 8)
- The peacemakers: for they shall be called children of God.(verse 9)
- Those who suffer persecution for justice’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (verse 10)
“For some reason, I feel like calling myself ‘blessed’ sends the message that I have somehow earned God’s special favor, that God is rewarding me for good behavior, and that millions of people who suffer from war, famine, poverty, and sickness because they weren’t blessed enough to be born in the wealthiest nation in the world and are simply not as loved by God.” (Rachel Held Evans)
After reading a few blogs on this subject, I was surprised at the negativity associated with Catholics/Christians referring to themselves as being blessed.
Meghan Hamilton (a self-proclaimed atheist and humanist) commented in her blog,
“As a nonbeliever who doesn’t agree with the concept of being blessed in the traditional sense, the constant belting of this phrase deserves critique. I can’t possibly see why anyone would want to dedicate their accomplishments to the ‘Blessings of a god’. If you’ve earned it, you deserve the credit. Personal accomplishments fully accredited to anyone but yourself completely undermines your ability and depreciates everything you’ve done to earn it.”
My response to both of these women: they’re missing the most important blessing they’ve been given which is their lives; at the core of this is God whether they want to accept it or not.
“Grace is not part of consciousness, it is the amount of light in our souls, not knowledge nor reason.” –Pope Francis
I think the best way to explain someone being blessed is to admit something happened out of your own doing. As for the world at war, and famine and starvation that affects so many people in the world, I don’t know how God’s plan will impact them. I do know what the Beatitudes suggest in explaining their ultimate rewards; that helps me better understand it.
I myself have shared with so many people after I survived cancer that I truly felt blessed. I had apparently had cancer for at least 15 years and was asymptomatic. I was preparing for 8:00 Mass one Sunday morning when I was hit with a severe pain on my right side. A trip to the Emergency Room confirmed that I had a large tumor attached to my right kidney. I was weeks away from it spreading. After the surgery to remove my kidney, the doctor explained it in his words: “Boy, did you ever dodge a big bullet!” I believe to this day nine years later, I was blessed.
As for my cancer diagnosis, I recognize the doctor’s role in my surviving cancer. I recognize my husband’s role in insisting that I go to the Emergency Room and get answers for the pain when I was reluctant. And what about that pain? I can’t help but wonder that it was a “blessing” since nothing like that had ever happened before. I recognize the fact that the CAT scan played a role in detecting the cancer. But, most important, I also recognize how the priest (Father Dave), who gave me the blessings with the Sacrament of the Sick the day before my surgery to remove my cancer, also played a huge role.
I read a response to one of the blogs from a woman agreeing with Ms. Hamilton because her daughter died from cancer at the age of 15. In summary, she commented, “These Christians running around like they’re special because they received a ‘blessing’; why didn’t my daughter get a blessing and survive? Wasn’t she good enough?”
The fact that someone survives cancer and others do not doesn’t mean the survivors are more blessed than someone else. It simply suggests that God’s plan is to provide “blessings” in other ways and during his time. I still believe that God will give us our best rewards in Heaven.
I would like to clarify that my belief in God has not kept me from having challenges and difficulties to overcome; believe me, I’ve had numerous challenges to overcome in my life. My sister Mary likes to say, “it’s all about bringing us to our knees.”
When you place your trust in God and acknowledge that He is with us always, through good and bad; it shouldn’t take away knowing what you had to do to achieve your own individual successes. I think then we can open our hearts to these things happening in God’s time, not ours, we recognize our true blessings.
Copyright 2017 Catherine Mendenhall-Baugh