Thursday, December 16, 2010

God Bless Us, Everyone

I recently saw a bumper sticker which read, "God Bless the Whole World." I felt my face light up with a smile as I realized that I was reading the perfect prayer. After all, I sometimes feel as if I could spend hours listing all of my intentions before I even begin to pray: God bless the sick, the homeless, the lonely, the dying, my family, my friends, my enemies, my neighbors, my co-workers, the Church, my brothers and sisters in Christ, my brothers and sisters of all faith backgrounds, those with no faith, those who've asked me to pray for them, myself...Asking God to bless the whole world just covers them all and then some, doesn't it? And more than that, what we're really asking for with this simple prayer is for everyone to recognize that Christ is alive in each and every one of us, and if only we could see Him, could realize His presence in each person we meet, then God truly would be blessing the whole world.

I'm on a Caryll Houselander kick this Advent and the following passage speaks so poetically of the Christ Child in all of us...

"In some He is newly born.
In some He is a child.
In some He is homeless.
In some, He is ignored, unrecognized, mocked, betrayed.
In some He is hungry; in some He is naked; in some He is helpless.
Here are examples, but they are not exhaustive: indeed, they are only hints at the countless manifestations of Christ in man...

In many people Christ lives the life of the Host. Our life is a sacramental life. This Host life is like the Advent life, like the life of the Child in the womb, the Child in the swaddling bands, the Christ in the tomb. It is a life of dependence upon creatures, of silence and secrecy, of hidden light. It is the life of a prisoner.

The Host life may be lived in prisons: in prisons of war, in internment camps, in almshouses, hospitals, workhouses; by blind people, mental patients; in people who have to be wheeled about, washed, dressed and undressed by others; who are literally obliged to offer themselves to God in the hands of other people, like the Host in the priest's hands at the Mass."

~Caryll Houselander, The Reed of God

Just yesterday, I held the Host in my hands, not only at Mass, but at work as well: I was visiting with a mother and her one-month-old son in my office, signing them up for WIC (Women, Infants and Children) benefits so that the mother could have some formula for her baby and healthy food for herself. She had struggled unsuccessfully to breastfeed her baby and so resorted to feeding formula, but now, she was out of formula, and, showing me the empty baby bottle, said she didn't know what she would do without the help that WIC provides.

I took the baby bottle, washed it in the nearby sink and made a new bottle of formula for her so that she could feed her hungry baby while we talked. She went on to share her worries with me about her finances, and the fact that she had applied for cash assistance and food stamps from the State but has been waiting for six weeks and still has not had a response about whether or not she would qualify for the benefits. Being fairly new to this country (just like the Holy Family in Egypt) and not completely proficient in English, she was trying to figure out what her next step should be to provide for herself and her son. Now, she was out of money and out of food and was grateful for the assistance that WIC would provide.

As I looked through my resources to help her find the nearest agency that could help her with her concerns, I could see that she was anxious to finish her appointment with me, because instead of taking her son out of his car seat and holding him while she fed him, she simply left him strapped in his seat and held the bottle in his mouth. She confessed that she was in a hurry because she had a doctor appointment across town and didn't want to be late. But, baby was not enjoying being fed like this; he wanted the warmth of his mother's arms and the nearness of her heart while he ate.

So, she patiently unbuckled him from his seat, undressed him from his winter bunting, and began to feed him with love. Only he wasn't interested in eating just now, and he began to fidget and squirm. I offered to hold him while she looked over the list of resources that I offered her.

With my hand firmly on his bottom, and his little face nuzzling my shoulder, I gently patted the small of his back, and out came his undigested milk, all over my shoulder. Mom fussed and apologized, but I just had to smile. It had been a long time since I wore spit up on my shoulder! I remember reading a Mother's Day poem about a special place in heaven for mothers whose shoulders carry a faint fragrance of sour milk, and I felt honored as I realized that there had been another baby just like this one; a baby who was poor and cold and hungry; a baby whose overfull stomach most likely emptied its contents on His mother's shoulder many times...

"We know by faith that Christ is in our own family; it is He whom we foster in our children. When you tell your child a story, when you play a game with your little son, you tell a story, you play a game with the Christ Child...A woman too weary for articulate prayer will find that for her the best of all prayer is the unspoken act of faith in Christ in her children. When she knows that she is setting the table and baking the cake for the Christ Child, her soul will be at rest...

An old man whose love for his fellow creatures endeared him to them all confessed that whomever he met-before greeting him out loud-he greeted Christ within him in secret. Such a practice as that, begun darkly in faith, would soon teach us to believe, too, just as genuflecting before the tabernacle teaches babies to believe that God is 'in there.'"

~Caryll Houselander, The Reed of God

God is in that baby with the undigested milk, in the mother rushing about to appointments, and even in the nutritionist trying her best to serve and care for young, struggling mothers and their children. And, so I ask God to bless Himself in us, to help us carry His love to one another, to Himself who suffers so much from the burden of our sin. In this season of Advent as we prepare to give birth to God who gestates within each one of us, as we silently wait for Him to be born anew so that we can show Him to the world through our kind actions and our gentle love, I repeat the words of Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol and I ask Him to please, "God bless us, everyone-God bless the whole world."


  1. I love this post! I always feel guilty because I have so many intentions that sometimes I don't even know where to start!

  2. Wonderful post Anne, and I always flet the "God BLess America" was a little short sighted. I love the "God bless the world" theme because God has by giving us his only begotten Son.

  3. Im glad you posted this. I think it really is the perfect prayer. Not that we cant devote prayers and meditations to specific people or causes. But this is just the right thing to pray at all the other times. Hope you are having a Blessed Advent!

    God Bless you!