(Vatican News) Reflecting on blessing as an essential dimension of prayer, Pope Francis in his General Audience says that our response to the God who blesses is also by blessing. We do it through the prayer of praise, adoration and thanksgiving.
Pope Francis begins his general audience catechesis by citing a few instances from the Book of Genesis to point out that blessing is an essential dimension of prayer.
God “speaks well” of creation
While God creates, He “continually blesses life”, such as the animals, man and woman, and the Sabbath. Even men and women give blessings, aware that "blessing possesses a special power that accompanies the person who receives it throughout his or her entire life." It opens up the person’s heart to allow God to change it.
The Holy Father explains the meaning of the word ‘bless’ by going to the Italian word “benedire” which means “speaks well”. Therefore, “there is a God who speaks well”. God sees every work of His hands as good and beautiful, when He creates man and woman, His creation is complete and is “very good”.
God’s indelible image in us despite sin
Soon, however, the Pope continues, this “beauty that God had imprinted within His work will be altered, and the human being will become a degenerate creature, capable of spreading evil and death in the world. But nothing will ever take away the original imprint of goodness that God placed within: the capacity to bless and to be blessed.” “The hope of the world lies entirely in God’s blessing: He continues to desire our good, He is the first, to continue to hope for our good."
This is why, the Pope says, “God’s greatest blessing is Jesus Christ”, the eternal Word, with which, as St. Paul says, the Father blessed us “while we were yet sinners”. St. Paul proclaims with emotion God’s plan of love saying, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.”
According to the Holy Father, “There is no sin that can completely erase the image of Christ present in each one of us. No sin can cancel that image that God has given us: the image of Christ.” Sin can disfigure this image, but cannot remove it from God’s mercy. No matter how long the sinner is in sin, the Pope says, “God is patient till the end, hoping that the sinner’s heart will eventually open and change”. “God is like a good father and a good mother: they never stop loving their child, no matter what he or she may have done wrong.”
In this regard, the Holy Father recalled having witnessed, during his experience as a priest and a Bishop, lines of mothers queuing up in front of the prison to visit their children behind bars. “They don't stop loving their children” despite being aware how ill those passing by in buses think about them. Yet, the Pope says, these mothers are not ashamed and go on because their children are more important than the shame they face. “Hence,” the Pope stresses, “we are more important to God than all the sins we can commit because He is father, He is mother, He is pure love, He has blessed us forever, and He will never stop blessing us.
God blesses even sinful children
Pope Francis points to the great impact that these “biblical texts of blessing” can have on those in prison or in a rehabilitation centre. They realize that “they are still blessed, notwithstanding their grave errors”; the “Father continues to desire their good and to hope that they will open themselves in the end to the good”. “Even if their closest relatives have abandoned them,” the Pope says, “they are always children to God”. "God cannot erase in us the image of a child, each of us is son and daughter.” This is why, he points out, miracles happen and God’s grace changes lives. God “takes us as we are, but He never leaves us as we are”.
In this regard, the Holy Father cites the episode of Zacchaeus, who was regarded as a sinner. Instead, “Jesus spots a glimmer of goodness” in him, and through his curiosity, allows the mercy that saves to pass through and change the heart and life of Zacchaeus. “Jesus,” the Pope says, “sees the indelible blessing of the Father in the people who are rejected and repudiated”. Jesus sees in Zacchaeus, the public sinner, that indelible sign of the Father's blessing and hence the reason for His compassion that leads him to change his heart.
What more, the Pope says, Jesus came to identify Himself with every person in need. In the Last Judgement, as Matthew narrates, Jesus will say He was hungry, naked, imprisoned and sick.
About blessing and cursing
In conclusion, the Holy Father pointed out that man and woman respond to this God who blesses by blessing Him in return, which, he says, is done through the prayer of praise, adoration and thanksgiving. “Prayer is joy and awareness”, the Pope said. “God did not wait for us to convert ourselves before beginning to love us, but He loved us a long time before when we were still in sin”.
The Pope further explained that it is not enough just to bless God who blesses us. We must bless everything in Him, all people, our brothers, the world. This, he said, is the root of Christian meekness, the ability to feel blessed and the ability to bless. “If all of us did this, there would certainly be no wars,” the Pope said, adding this world needs blessing and we can give the blessing and receive the blessing.
The Pope had a word of those used to cursing, who always have in their mouth and their heart, an ugly word, a curse. Each of us should examine himself or herself regarding this habit and ask the Lord for the grace to change because a curse cannot come out from a blessed heart. “May the Lord teach us never to curse but to bless.”