Through the years, one religious advertisement has been difficult to forget: “It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.”
This mission statement from The Christophers provides Christians with a sense of purpose. For as St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans (12:21) reminds us: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
A powerful argument may be made that “light-bearing” represents the vocation of every baptized Christian. Each of us is called to cover darkness with light. Each of us is called to remind others that God’s mercy and forgiveness trumps sin and evil. With our every breath, we are called to be both light and blessing to others.
In regard to blessings, paragraph 1671 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church instructs us that “Among sacramentals blessings (of persons, meals, objects, and places) come first. Every blessing praises God and prays for his gifts. In Christ, Christians are blessed by God the Father with every spiritual blessing. This is why the Church imparts blessings by invoking the name of Jesus, usually while making the holy sign of the cross of Christ.”
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, blessings also invoke certain marks of Divine favor upon those who are blessed.
- First, they are synonymous with praise. As Psalm 34:2 proclaims: “My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and be glad.”
- Second, blessings are wishes or desires that all good fortune, especially of a spiritual or supernatural kind, may go with the person or thing. Again, the Psalmist (128:1-2) declares: “Blessed is every one who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways! You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you.”
- Third, blessings may be prayed for the sanctification or dedication of a person or thing to some sacred purpose. In Matthew’s Gospel (26:26), we hear Jesus’ words: “Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.'” Outside of the Eucharist, we see such blessings in powerful ways at ordinations. There, God sets aside certain individuals (bishops, priests, and deacons) for the service of His people. In Second Kings (5:15), we read: “Then he [Naaman] returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and he came and stood before him; and he said, ‘Behold, I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel; so accept now a present from your servant.'”
Hence, blessings are properly understood as unmerited gifts—given to us by our loving God!
Last week, in the early morning hours, I had the opportunity to bless the home of a parishioner. Afterward, we stood for a while in their family room and I reminded those present (myself included) that each of us is called to be a blessing— to others.
As Advent begins, we seek the Christ child. On our journey, may we be a source of blessing to others.