Monday, 17 February 2014

What Are You Glad for?

This question may appear Pollyanna-ish but it contains a profound psychological truth. One of the most wonderful things about Jewish liturgy is the way in which the community and the individual are encouraged (nay, commanded) to bless God in every circumstance. A blessing is to be pronounced over food, land, descendants, homes, children, the future. In every conceivable circumstance, regardless of whether a person might feel like blessing God or receiving God's blessing or giving thanks, a prayer of blessing is to be pronounced and acceded to by the family or community. This is a sacred duty. 

If you read some of the blessings found in Judaism and then think of the circumstances in which they have been prayed, you cannot but be moved, and your soul opened up by the extraordinary generosity to which they witness. This is as true of the psalms as of the prayers offered up during the Holocaust. In these prayers, we see a human generosity that is reflected back from the very heart of God. And that is the power of blessing, isn't it? It opens us up psychologically. Think about it. I may be in any kind of circumstance yet there is God-given power to respond in the way I choose. I cannot sincerely thank my brother or pray God's blessing on my sister and yet hold bitterness towards them in my heart. Truly to bless another is an act of extraordinary power which sets the other free and also sets me free. Priests bless in a symbolic way, but all sorts of other people - mothers, fathers, guests, hosts, siblings, outcasts - bless too. If you cannot forgive someone, to read prayers of blessing and to acknowledge before God that you would like to be able to forgive may be a fruitful way toward release from your sense of injustice. But the power to choose the way lies with you.

So what is blessing? Do you recall an occasion when you were so overwhelmingly joyous that you could have included everyone, forgiven anyone and still had love to spare? That is the dynamic of blessing - that is how God looks on us. Blessing over-spills and runs into the meanest corners of our lives like a raging torrent. And so I come back to my question, 'What are you glad for?' What can you bless God for? For what would you like to be thankful? What are the deep sources of gratitude in your life at the present moment? Because, acknowledged, or overlooked, these are the sources of life in all its abundance.

I've been struggling quite a lot lately. The struggle to bless God or to feel blessed has pointed me to so many things I take utterly for granted on a daily basis. Had I been born 150 years ago, I would have been almost blind. I'm so short sighted I depend on contact lenses and glasses from the moment I open my eyes in the morning. I bless God for the miracle of sight. In another generation, I would not have been able to have a ministry as a priest because I am a woman. Whatever the difficulties, I bless God for that opportunity. Everyday I hear the stories of people who are approaching their death with courage and honesty and I bless God for their example and everything that I receive and learn from them. 

What are your deep sources of blessing? 

David Keen, on his blog Opinionated Vicar has encouraged us all to spend Lent being grateful rather than critical. This is very much within the Judaeo-Christian tradition of 'shalom', wholeness. To be profoundly grateful, even when there is only a little to be grateful for is, I believe, the key to life and love. It might seem naive, but it is, in fact, profoundly world-changing. 


  1. Thank you for giving me not just a thought for the day, but one for life in general. I do bless and am grateful for so much, but I'm sure not as much as i should.
    Bless You!!

  2. Glad to provide food for thought - and every blessing.