“I will not let you go unless you bless me.” Spoken by the Patriarch Jacob, these words sum up the attitude with which we should seek God’s blessings: “I will not let you go”. However, in today’s Christian culture, it is common to focus on the last part of the verse: “…unless you bless me.” A web search for “God’s Blessings” displays pages of “accessing the blessings of God” or “4 Steps to God’s Blessin’s”. Though it is natural and good to want the best of what God has for us, the problem lies in that we’ve generally lost sight of what real blessings are and how to receive them. God deeply desires to bless us, but those blessings come when we approach and meet Him in the way He has designed: through gift of self. In Man and woman He Created Them: a Theology of the Body, Blessed John Paul II states that when a person gives of themself, he or she “fulfills the very meaning of…being and existence.”
Because God’s love is ever giving, ever pouring out, from Creation to Cross to Communion, we can only truly experience the blessings of God when we mirror His love by giving ourselves back to Him and pouring ourselves out to others. Christ summed it up a few weeks ago in the Gospel reading: “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies it produces much fruit” (John 12:24). Christ is using a familiar farming analogy to point out that even God’s created universe participates in this economy. In Minnesota, we could just as easily say, “Unless a student hits the rink 8 days a week, he remains benched; but if he casts aside all things non-hockey, he shall skate” or “If you don’t shovel the snow, you remain at home; but if you break out the snow pusher, you shall attend the Memorial Day Parade.” Basically, only sacrifice brings blessing.
In fact, name ONE thing of lasting value that did not in some way result from sacrifice and suffering on someone’s part. This principle is all around us, from marriage to childbirth to national freedom. For instance, if you hadn’t given up the time to read this article, you could never have been astounded by the blessing of my overwhelming intellect. The point is that we are created to experience the endless, staggering blessings of God’s love, but we’re not ready to fully receive them until we empty our hands of all that we’re holding in order to cling to Him, never letting go.
A few weeks ago, a 20-person team came from St. John’s to do a week of service on the island of Dominica (dah-mih-KNEE-kuh), where I am currently working as a missionary. The group prayed every week for four months prior to coming, gave up time, treasure, and talent, sweated, lost sleep, and ran themselves ragged; and when they came home, all they could say was that they felt like they had received far more than they gave. Beautifully, my leaders down here said they felt the same in return! The reason for this mutual blessing is simple: when you give yourself to God, He gives Himself back to you, and He will not be outdone. (Think about your sacrifice of walking up to the altar on Sunday vs. the Eucharist you receive in return)
If you want to receive blessings, let go of what you’re holding on to so tightly, and GIVE yourself to Christ. Live a life that blesses others, regardless of reciprocation. Just give. Pay no attention to whether or not they care. Quit looking for repayment. Just give like He does, to the last breath and to the last drop of blood. If you do, when you finally give up your ghost, you will find His breath in your lungs and His blood in your veins, and you will know, fully and eternally, what it truly means to be blessed.