The blessing of forgiving
“Always count your blessings!” How often do we hear this reminder on special and ordinary events? Blessings fill our hearts on birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas, New Year, graduation, passing an important exam/interview, good health and a simple weekend family meal.
Perhaps, those who engage blessings most are priests because they have unworthily been gifted with a ministry of being a bridge of blessings for others. How often are we approached with petitions like, “Father, can you please bless this rosary?”. “We’re leaving for a trip, can you bless our family?”, “I’m about to take my entrance exams, can you pray that focus?”
Through the years one can get quite used to imparting blessings for unceasing requests. I often remind myself when I tend to mechanically trace the blessing of the Sign of the Cross on people: these individuals are really counting on me to bridge God’s grace to them and whatever they may need His help for.
But blessings aren’t only an exclusive act of priests. They can also be imparted by parents and persons who are known to live very exemplary lives serving God and their fellowmen. Stephen Rossetti, in his book, Priestly Blessing, writes about the blessings given by the Patriarchs to their children. He also dedicates a topic on parental blessings.
Rossetti quotes from the revised Book of Blessings, stating that “parents may want to bless their children on any number of pastoral occasions, such as the beginning of the school year or during celebrations for the children. Certainly, a birthday could be an occasion for such a blessing.”
Moreover, it states how the “Church recognizes the authority of parents to bless their children. Parents’ love and blessing of their children is irreplaceable.” Thus, for example, in moments of illness they “may pray that God might ‘raise up these children from their sickness,’ and they trace the Sign of the Cross on their foreheads.”
But when a priest is available, his blessing is still preferred since it is unique for representing the very person of Christ Who realizes these sacred acts. But this does belittle the blessing of parents because of their singular love and care for their children. Moreover, as Christians we all participate in Christ’s priesthood and thus capable of giving blessings too.
Now there is an interesting kind of blessing that I would like to consider: the act of forgiving. Although forgiving is strictly not a blessing, the very act and disposition of forgiving opens the ‘forgiver’ to graces from God. And by forgiving the offender, he is actually asking God for a conversion by showering the offender transforming graces. From this perspective, forgiving brings about a special blessing upon us.
This blessing of forgiveness is powerfully experienced when one goes to confession. In the Sacrament we sorrowfully accuse ourselves of our sins and receive a grace that removes our attachment to sin. Moreover, it deepens our convictions to do good and repair the consequences of our sinful actions. We come out blessed!
Something similar occurs, but not sacramentally, when we forgive someone. We are somehow asking God to bless us with peace, understanding, compassion before the injustice we have endured or are suffering. We also pray like Jesus in Calvary, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing!” It is in this way that we can say that forgiving is actually receiving and imparting a blessing simultaneously.
We therefore need not wait for special events to impart a blessing. During the day, there are surely some rough and trying moments that would pop up. Instead of cursing someone who cuts us on the road, we can forgive-bless that person. When it seems we are misunderstood, taken for granted or defamed we can also take advantage to say a prayer of forgiveness during these moments.
This attitude of forgiving-blessing will not automatically erase our negativities or hurts from the injustice we experience. But in our constant and persevering effort to forgive, we will ourselves become blessings to those around us because we will slowly but fruitfully sow peace, joy, meekness, patience and with God’s grace the heroic gesture to extend a smiling-helping hand even towards those who consider themselves our ‘enemies’.