Bless You! The Last Blessing by Chris Highland

Pope Francis just blessed thousands of Harleys in Rome.  Millions say a blessing over meals every day.  And when we sneeze, there’s always someone quick to say, “God Bless You!”  There are blessings for everything, everyone and every situation.  Animals are blessed, so are ships and buildings and marriages.  But what exactly IS a blessing?  What does it mean to bless and what would happen, bless me, if all these blessed blessings were no more?

In the years I was a Christian Minister I said many a blessing.  You raise your hands or place them on a head or a shoulder and you say something.  Usually you say, “Bless You” or “Blessings” expecting that those words actually DO something.  But what do they do?  What is really going on?  I had to ask myself why I was blessing so much and so many.  Did I NEED to bless the person or the food or the bread and wine?  Weren’t they already good enough, blessed enough?  Did I have the power (or the right) to make them “better”?

In my decades as a Chaplain I also said some blessings, but usually (in my liberally progressive way) I would turn it back on the person or assembly:  “We all bless each other here.”  I knew I had no magic powers and mystic words that would somehow, someway change the reality of the moment. . .  Poof!  All is well and good!  I sometimes thought saying blessings or giving blessings was a little like the habit some people have of saying “We pray” over and over while praying.  That never made any sense.  It always sounds so circular and self-conscious without content or meaning.

“The LORD bless you and keep you;” “Blessed are the poor;” “May you be blessed;” “Blessed is the fruit of thy womb;” etc, etc.   We all know the scriptures and the traditions around blessings.  Countless times we quote the ancient texts or speak “sacred” (magic?) words, expecting something to occur, something to change, without honestly thinking about the What and the Why.

In college and seminary Greek classes I learned that “to bless” is “to make happy” or something along those lines.  So, to make happiness happen seems one purpose of blessing.  Nice thought.  But is that realistic or reasonable?  For someone to stand up and say, “Be Happy!” or “May You be Happy!” sounds very lovely, but there has to be something more going on, and there is.

Putting hands on another person and saying a particular word does not, in my experience at least, instantly bestow happiness (or health or anything really).  It may make a person or a congregation feel uplifted, and maybe that is ultimately the goal, but why do we do this?

Read the rest of the article here. 

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3 thoughts on “Bless You! The Last Blessing by Chris Highland

  1. Well, that’s something to think about…

    Here’s a simple and powerful example of the power of blessing. No words are expressed, it’s a simple touch, like the touch of blessing on someone’s head as you mention. It’s the story of pre-mature twin girls, one is healthy and strong and the other is weak and struggling to survive.

    Each were in their respective incubators and one was not expected to live. A hospital nurse fought against the hospital rules and placed the babies in one incubator. When they were placed together, the healthier of the two threw an arm over her sister in an endearing embrace. The smaller baby’s heart stabilized and temperature rose to normal.”

    More than simple blood cells, more then flesh and blood, for those who care to embrace something beyond shallow secular materialism that in the end, with all due respect has very little to offer in the way of actual help to the struggles of the human race today.

    A baby sister reaches out to her sister and extends “a blessing” a touch a hug… no words are expressed and no one taught her, at least we don’t think so. One person looks that the picture and sees depth, love, blessing, compassion and something that goes deeper than surface level materialism. Another person looks at it, turns away and says, just simple cold hard physics that’s all.

    We do get to choose to turn into or away from our Creator, that’s part of His love… more than feelings and rooted in knowledge based on interactive relationship.

    I think Jesus knew something when he said “bless your enemies” Oh and he’s not the only one who invites us to learn to do that.

    Let’s not throw the baby out of the incubator she has some blessing to do 😉

  2. Beautiful story, Jeff. And wonderful to see these deeply human moments from children, before they are divided by politics, nationality, religion, etc.

    Hugging enemies! Now that would be something to see!

    Peace, and happiness, friend.

  3. The funny thing is, I was actually in the Vatican City when this was taking place and I saw the Pope blessing the bikers. I appreciate your thoughts here – it’s definitely a wonderful story that you have given us.

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