In this week’s blog, Fr. Paddy says that to bless someone deeply is to die for them in some real way, to give up some part of your life for them.

If I want to really bless someone, I must, in some way, give my life to that person so as to enable him or her to have more life. We see this aspect of blessing powerfully portrayed in Victor Hugo’s classic novel, Les Miserables. At one point in that story, Jean Val Jean, who is by then an old man, goes in search of Marius, the young man who is in love with his adopted daughter. Initially his motivation for searching out Marius is mixed. He is understandably threatened by this young man who will take his daughter away from him. He finds Marius with a group of idealistic young revolutionaries who, while trying to help the poor, have put themselves into a position where they are all about to be killed in a brutal attack from government forces. Their position is hopeless.

It is in this situation that Jean Val Jean finds young Marius asleep. He bends over him, invokes God (“God on high, hear my prayer”) then, turning to young Marius, he repeats several times: “Look on this boy…he is young, he’s afraid… tomorrow he might die but, Lord, let him live-let me die, let him live! Let him live!”

Those last lines are the prototypes of deep blessing. A deep blessing is not simply an affirmation: “You are a fine young man!” “You are a fine young Woman!” Good and life-giving as theses words are, they are not enough. To bless someone deeply is to die for them in some real way, to give up some part of your life for them.

I recently went to visit an elderly couple. Two fantastic people who in many ways personify the sentiments “dying to give life”. The couple have been married for fifty three years. Both in their early eighties. For the past seven years, Mary has been caring for her companion and “anam chara”, Bill, full time. His body is severely immobilised because of a serious stroke. Mary’s only help is for three hours of support via her homecare every day. I noticed her loving attention to him, her gentle touch, her reassurance, how she included Bill in every conversation. The thought struck me, that self-sacrifice and love, really does keep others alive.

Life makes sense when we love.

Love points us in the direction of others.

I salute, parents supporting children, often with profound special needs. I think also of parents living hectic lives, attending generously, selflessly to the needs of their family. Surely the sacrifice of nurses, doctors and carers who work tirelessly providing attention and supporting the sick and vulnerable, is another example of “dying to give life”.

The more we give, the more we live. Jesus on the cross offers the ultimate sacrifice. His total selfless action is a powerful example that continues to be relevant and present in the many places where great love is given everyday in all our communities. Jesus on the cross lay down his life for his friends.

Mary and Bill live on love, despite his stroke his loving wife allows him to realise that he is necessary, important and treasured. It is Mary’s love that allows Jesus to be present this Lent.

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