But you are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own,
so that you may announce the praises” of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2: 9)
The Mass seems to be full of blessings. We start by making the sign of the cross over ourselves after the opening song. Sometimes, we bless water and then use the water as a blessed reminder of our baptism. The deacon is blessed before the gospel, the gospel book is blessed, and we make three signs of the cross on our bodies at the beginning of the gospel. The bread and cup are blessed with the sign of the cross right before the consecration. Pretty much everything and everyone is blessed at one time or another. So what does the final blessing add to the whole? What does it mean to be blessed, any- way?
Jews, and therefore Jesus, and therefore Christians, by extension, believe that everything is already full of God’s presence. Everything created is already blessed because it comes forth from God’s self- expression. “The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord,” says Psalm 33. Creation is so full of God that it is possible to “taste and see the goodness of the Lord.” While many in his time thought of wealth and health to be signs of blessing, Jesus began his ministry by teaching “Blessed are the poor … blessed are the meek … blessed are the merciful … blessed are the peacemakers … blessed are the persecuted,” turning the human idea about blessedness on its head. Genesis 1 (27-31) describes creation in these words: ʺGod created mankind in his image … God blessed them.” God had also blessed the animals, and everything God made was pronounced to be good. Finally, Sabbath itself, the seventh day, the day of no-work, was also blessed.
So, if everything was created good, everything is pronounced blessed by God and by the mouth of Jesus himself, why do we bless everything again? I think there are a number of reasons. Mostly, we do it because God does it. We are made in God’s image, and so when we are at our best, we do what God does with as much love and generosity as we can muster. Also, because we have muddied the waters with sin, and sometimes hurt each other so badly that we can see neither the good in ourselves nor our neighbors, we need to be reminded that God is near, that we are blessed and that the mess that we created is not the domain of God. We ourselves, our priest and deacon, the water, bread and wine, all of it is already holy; our problem is, we don’t always see it that way. So blessing is both healing and a call to conversion. We are “a chosen race, a holy nation” and a people set apart, and being called “holy” and “blessed” and “God’s people, signed again at the end of Mass with the sign of the cross and the name of the three-in-one God is a reminder that we belong to God, and we should go out and act like it.
Only God is holy. God is the blessed one. How does God “act” blessed? By being who God is, by being love. Patient. Kind. Never rude or jealous, not egotistical or holding a grudge. Bearing all things, hoping all things, enduring all things. That’s why we get blessed. It’s a reminder of who we are and whose we are and to act like it for a hundred and sixty-seven hours until we get together again.
Coming up: DisMASSal, Mission and the Final Final FINAL Prayer