God bless you! The words are a natural response to a sneeze. Sometimes they are said in gratitude for the kindness of another. When I ask God to send blessings on you, I am asking for God`s divine protection and love to rain freely on you. Blessing is a gift asked for in faith, and given in hope.
Scripture is full of rich blessings. There are some wonderful books available for Catholic families and households with blessings for every occasion. We are encouraged to bless each other, and to do so frequently. Yet, sometimes we are still hung up on who can bless.
In our parish, children and adults unable to receive the sacrament are invited to come into the communion line, cross their arms over their chest and receive a blessing. The blessing can be a simple `God bless you and keep you`, or other words to that effect. As a Eucharistic minister, I enjoyed giving these blessings – especially to the wee ones who looked up at you with big, expectant eyes and a ready smile. But one pastor announced before communion that anyone not receiving the Eucharist was welcome to come into his line for `my priestly blessing`. Huh? Was his blessing worth more than that given by mere lay persons? Does God bless more generously when a priest says the words?
Sadly, many of us were raised to believe in the special effectiveness of `official` blessings by priests and bishops. In our hierarchical thinking, papal blessings are tops. During the Sunday Angelus in St. Peter`s Square, you will find Catholics clutching handfuls of rosaries and medals and raising them up when the Pope gives his blessing. There`s nothing wrong with this. Most of us don`t see the Pope every day and want a memento to take home to family and friends.
I attended a Sunday Angelus shortly after Benedict XVI was elected. As he raised his hands in blessing on the crowd, I had a sudden feeling of compassion for him. He looked small and frail in real life and had a tough job ahead of him – one I surely wouldn`t want. He needed our blessings too. I involuntarily made a small sign of the cross in his direction, sending my blessing on him. Well, after the glare I received from the Italian Mama next to me I was relieved there were no Swiss Guards around!
Whether I had the right to do so or not, I happily tell the story of the day I blessed the Pope. So, go forth and bless those around you. Bless your loved ones. Bless your enemies. Bless your leaders. Bless all creation. God knows we need it. 🙂