Reflecting on the blessing as an essential dimension of prayer, Pope Francis said in his general audience that our response to the God who blesses is also through blessing. We do it through a prayer of praise, adoration, and gratitude.
From Vatican News
Pope Francis begins his catechism for a general audience by quoting several passages from the Book of Genesis to emphasize that the blessing is a fundamental dimension of prayer.
God “speaks well” of creation
As God creates, He “continually blesses life,” like animals, man and woman, and the Sabbath. Even men and women give blessings, realizing that “the blessing has a special power that accompanies the person who receives it throughout his life.”
The Holy Father explained the meaning of the word “bless” by referring to the Italian word “benedire”, which means “speak 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 “very good.”
God’s indelible image in us despite sin
Soon, however, the Pope continues, this “beauty that God has sealed in His work will be changed and the human being will become a degenerate being capable of spreading evil and death to the world.” But nothing will ever take away the original imprint of goodness that God has placed: the ability to bless and 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.”
That is why, says the Pope, “God’s greatest blessing is Jesus Christ,” the eternal Word with which, as St. Paul says, the Father blessed us “while we were still sinners.” St. Paul excitedly proclaimed God’s plan for love, saying, “Blessed be God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath 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 of us. No sin can undo this image that God has given us: the image of Christ. Sin can disfigure this image, but it cannot remove it from God’s mercy. No matter how long a sinner is in sin, the pope says, “God is patient to 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 has done wrong.”
In this connection, the Holy Father recalled that he had witnessed, during his experience as a priest and bishop, a number of mothers queuing up in front of the prison to visit their children behind bars. “They don’t stop loving their children,” even though they know how badly bus drivers think of them. And yet, says the pope, these mothers are not ashamed and continue because their children are more important than the shame they face. “Therefore,” the Pope emphasizes, “we are more important to God than all the sins we can commit, because He is the Father, He is the mother, He is pure love, He has blessed us forever, and He will never cease to bless us.”
God blesses even sinful children
Pope Francis points to the great impact that these “biblical texts of blessing” can have on people in prison or in a rehabilitation center. They realize that “they are still blessed, notwithstanding their gross mistakes”; “The father continues to wish them well and to hope that they will eventually open up to the good.” “Even if their closest relatives have abandoned them,” the pope said, “they are always children of God.” “God cannot erase the image of a child in us, each of us is a son and a daughter.” That is why, he points out, miracles happen and God’s grace changes lives. God “takes us as we are, but never leaves us as we are.”
In this connection, the Holy Father quotes the episode of Zacchaeus, who is considered a sinner. Instead, “Jesus saw a spark of goodness in him, and through his curiosity he allowed the saving grace to pass over and change Zacchaeus’ heart and life. “Jesus,” says the Pope, “sees the indelible blessing of the Father in people who are rejected and rejected.” Jesus sees in Zacchaeus, the public sinner, that indelible sign of the Father’s blessing, and hence the cause of His compassion, which causes him to change his heart.
Moreover, says the pope, Jesus came to identify with every person in need. In the Last Judgment, as Matthew says, Jesus will say that he was hungry, naked, imprisoned, and sick.
For the blessing and the curse
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 a prayer of praise, adoration and gratitude. “Prayer is joy and awareness,” the pope said. “God did not wait for us to turn before He began to love us, but He loved us long before 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 we all did that, there would certainly be no wars,” the pope said, adding that this world needs a blessing and we can give the blessing and receive the blessing.
The Pope had a word for those who are accustomed to swearing, who always have in their mouths and hearts, an ugly word, a curse. Each of us must examine this habit and ask the Lord for grace to change, because a curse cannot come from a blessed heart. “May the Lord teach us never to curse, but to bless.”