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Living Under the Blessing or the Curse

There’s a Buddhist parable that runs something like this: One day as the Buddha was sitting under a tree, a young, trim soldier walked by, looked at the Buddha, noticed his weight and his fat, and said: “You look like a pig!” The Buddha looked up calmly at the soldier and said: “And you look like God!” Taken aback by the comment, the soldier asked the Buddha: “Why do you say that I look like God?” The Buddha replied, “Well, we don’t really see what’s outside of ourselves, we see what’s inside of us and project it out. I sit under this tree all day and I think about God, so that when I look out, that’s what I see. And you, you must be thinking about other things!”

The above story is an illustration of the choices we make about whether we want to live under the blessing or under the curse. Let me illustrate this. Many down and out Biblical figures, through circumstance or choice, lived under a curse and moved ever so slowly to live under a blessing. Recall the more popular word the Church used to use instead of the word “blessing.” The word was “benediction” which literally means “to speak well of” (bene=well; diction=speech). So, to bless someone is to speak well of that person. The first blessing comes from the mouth of God on the sixth day after creating human beings. It says, “God blessed them” (Gen. 1:28) … “and indeed, it was very good” (Gen. 1:31). Getting back to our down and out Biblical figures, Max Sheler said that Zacchaeus came to see and love in himself what Jesus saw and loved in him. And that Peter and Mary Magdalen (insert your own name), gradually and slowly came to see and love in themselves what Jesus saw in them. And what Jesus saw in them, he knew in himself. What did Jesus know in himself? That he was God’s Beloved. Jesus hears the blessing pronounced over him in two powerful moments in the Scriptures—at his baptism and at the transfiguration on Mount Tabor (“You are my beloved”). The beloved sees the beloved. Heart recognizes heart. The beloved in me recognizes the beloved in you. The beloved cannot see a pig, only another beloved.

The flip side is that we have all lived under the curse. We have all heard debilitating voices that said, “You’re stupid… you’ll never make anything of your life … who do you think you are? … Why did you think you were so smart? … You could die, and nobody would take notice.” And lo and behold, we do something or say something out of sorts and the voice of self-fulfilling prophecy returns, “See, there’s living proof, you are worthless; your hunch was right!”

Saintly as he was, St. Francis was on the outs with his greedy father. That continual rejection from his father hurt so much that Francis would invite a beggar from the streets to accompany him, walk by his side and protect his soul. He instructed him, “When my father hurls curses and abuse at me, I will hear them painfully in one ear, but I ask you to walk on my other side, and whisper God’s favor into my other ear, ‘Francis, you are my beloved son. You are a son of heaven and a son of God.’ Just keep repeating it until I believe it again.” 

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