How to Bless Your Children

(Homily for New Years Day)

Message: As we begin the New Year, I ask you to make this resolution: Bless those who are close to you.

At the beginning of the baptism ceremony, the priest (or deacon) welcomes the child with a sign of the cross on the baby’s forehead. He then invites the parents and godparents to also mark their child with the same sign of our Savior. During the baptism homily I always encourage the parents - and godparents – to continue that practice. When the mom places the child in the crib, she can call to the dad to bless his child. Then she does the same. This blessing has great power.

Once I was with a family who had blessed their children every day. The oldest son was now leaving the home to go to college. At the moment of parting, the mom and dad made the sign of the cross over her son. The parents, particularly the dad, were not great talkers. In fact, they kept things pretty close to their chest, but they had blessed their children every day. They had a bond more powerful than words.

Today Moses instructs Aaron on how to give a blessing. The words are simple:

The LORD bless you and keep you!
The LORD let his face shine upon
you, and be gracious to you!
The LORD look upon you kindly and
give you peace!

This blessing has passed the test of time. Originating with chosen people, the Levitical Blessing has been pronounced three millennia. The apostle Barnabas, who was a Levite, undoubtedly gave many people that blessing. St. Francis, himself a deacon, used those words to bless others. Rabbis, priests, deacons, ministers and parents have all employed the blessing. If you don’t remember all the words, you can simply say “The Lord bless you.” Or like the rather taciturn parents I mentioned, you can just make the sign of the cross with your hand or your thumb. The blessing will have great power.

The blessing will not only help your child; through him it will come back upon you. If you have a strong bond with your child, you yourself will succeed. A recent study demonstrated this. Researchers analyzed the variables that enabled a person to rise from poverty to prosperity. They found that a combination of two factors almost guaranteed financial success. If a man could make a commitment to his wife and family – and hold a job, any job, for one year, he was almost certain to overcome poverty. It did not matter what his background was, where he had come or what his education was. A family commitment and the ability to hold onto a job – even a very low paying job – for one year were the strongest predictors of a rise to relative prosperity.

A person who blesses their child forms a strong bond between the two of them. That bond can motivate a person to overcome many obstacles. A woman once told me about the rather miserable conditions she was working in. She had to take quite a bit from her boss and co-workers. But she did not just walk off the job. She had two children who motivated her to make the sacrifice. When she blessed them at night, she knew the sacrifice was worth it. Eventually something better did come along – but even if it did not, she would have supported a lot. She blessed her children every day and saw them as her greatest earthly blessing.

As we begin the New Year, I ask you to make this resolution: Bless those who are close to you. At first it may be awkward to do so, but at least begin with a blessing in your heart. When you see your child – or whatever person you live with – say, “The Lord bless you.” Little by little, you can extend that blessing to others: those you work with, your friends, people you meet as you go about your daily business. Your blessing will help them – and it will also help you. I would like to conclude with the levitical blessing Moses taught to his brother Aaron:

The LORD bless you and keep you!
The LORD let his face shine upon
you, and be gracious to you!
The LORD look upon you kindly and
give you peace!


Spanish Version

From Archives (New Years - Mary Mother of God):

2016: New Beginning: Proof of Sonship
2015: The Battle for Our Young People's Hearts
2014: Silence Your Heart
2013: Our Debt to Mary
2012: The Power of a Blessing
2009: Three Lessons for the New Year
2006: The Lord Bless You
2005: Keep Out of His Way
2004: Signs of Hope Among Teenagers
2003: A Tradition Worth Fighting For
2002: No Justice Without Forgiveness

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