Sixteen Biblical Blessings for Pope Benedict XVI by Felix Just, S.J., Ph.D.
The name “Benedict” comes from the Latin word benedictus, meaning “blessed.” It is derived from the verb bene-dicere, which literally means “to speak well of.”
The equivalent words in biblical Greek are eulogeo (“to bless or praise”), eulogia (“blessing”), eulogetos (“blessed”), and the closely related makarios (“blessed”), makarizo (“to call or consider blessed”), and makarismos (“blessedness”).
May Pope Benedict XVI truly be blessed by God, and may he be a blessing for all people. May the new Bishop of Rome, all the bishops, and all Christian believers be inspired by the following sixteen selections, and all the blessings found in the Sacred Scriptures.
1) God creates and blesses the whole human race:
Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness…” / So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. / God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” // God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. (Gen 1:26a, 27-28, 31a; God had earlier blessed the animals, in Gen 1:22)
God similarly blesses Noah and his descendents after the Flood (Gen 9:1-7)
2) God blesses Abraham and his descendents, and the Patriarchs bless their descendents:
Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. / I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. / I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Gen 12:1-3)
God repeatedly blesses Abraham, Sarah, their sons Ishmael and Isaac, and their future descendents (Gen 17:16, 20; 22:17; 24:1; 25:11; 26:3, 12, 24, 29; 28:14; etc.)
Isaac wants to bless Esau, but is tricked into blessing Jacob instead (Gen 27:1-40; 28:1-4; cf. Heb 11:20)
Jacob blesses each of his twelve sons, as well as two sons of Joseph (Gen 48:1—49:28; cf. Heb 11:21)
3) God instructs Moses on how the priests are to bless the people (“The Priestly Blessing of Aaron”):
The LORD spoke to Moses, saying: / “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the Israelites: You shall say to them, / ‘The LORD bless you and keep you; / the LORD make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; / the LORD lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.’ / So they shall put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.” (Num 6:22-27; cf. 2 Chron 30:27)
4) Moses blesses the Israelites about to enter the Promised Land:
“If you will only obey the LORD your God, by diligently observing all his commandments that I am commanding you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth; / all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the LORD your God: / Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field. / Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb, the fruit of your ground, and the fruit of your livestock, both the increase of your cattle and the issue of your flock. / Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. / Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out. // The LORD will command the blessing upon you in your barns, and in all that you undertake; he will bless you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. / The LORD will establish you as his holy people, as he has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of the LORD your God and walk in his ways.” (Deut 18:1-9)
5) Blessings in the Psalms and the Prophets:
The Psalms mostly call upon people to “Bless the Lord”; less often do they speak of God blessing people:
The LORD has been mindful of us; he will bless us; he will bless the house of Israel; he will bless the house of Aaron; / he will bless those who fear the LORD, both small and great. / May the LORD give you increase, both you and your children. / May you be blessed by the LORD, who made heaven and earth. / The heavens are the Lord’s heavens, but the earth he has given to human beings. / The dead do not praise the LORD, nor do any that go down into silence. / But we will bless the LORD from this time on and forevermore. Praise the LORD! (Ps 115:12-18)
The books of the Prophets contain relatively few blessings, considering their great length, but do have some beautiful texts:
Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him. (Isa 30:18)
Blessed are those who trust in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. / They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit. (Jer 17:7)
6) Blessings in the Gospels related to Mary, the Mother of Jesus:
As Mary visits Elizabeth: When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit / and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. / And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? / For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. / And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.” (Luke 1:41-45)
In Mary’s song of praise, the Magnificat: “My soul magnifies the Lord / and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, / for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed / for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.” (Luke 1:46-49)
As Mary, Joseph, and the infant Jesus are In the Jerusalem Temple: Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed / so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Luke 2:34-35).
Decades later, as a woman dialogues with Jesus: A woman in the crowd raised hervoice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you!” / But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!” (Luke 11:27-28; cf. 23:29)
7) Jesus teaches the crowds the “Beatitudes”:
From the “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew’s Gospel: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute youand utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account...”
From the “Sermon on the Plain” in Luke’s Gospel: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled.
Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son ofMan.”
8) Jesus instructs his followers to bless their enemies, a teaching repeated in the Letters of Paul and Peter:
Jesus: “But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, / bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. (Luke 6:27-28; cf. Matt 5:44-45)
Paul: “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.” (Romans 12:14)
Paul: “and we grow weary from the work of our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure;” (1 Cor 4:12)
Peter: “Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called—that you might inherit a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:9)
9) Jesus blesses his disciples, or calls them blessed, on various occasions:
As Jesus speaks to the messengers sent from John the Baptist: “Go and tell John what you hear and see: / the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. / And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.” (Matt 11:4-6; also Luke 7:22-23)
As Jesus teaches his disciples in parables: “But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. / Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.” (Matt 13:16-17; cf. Luke 10:23-24)
As Jesus dialogues with Peter at Ceasarea Philippi:He said to them, “But who do you say that I am? / Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” / And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. / And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. / I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matt 16:15-19; but not in the parallel texts of Mark 8:29 or Luke 9:20)
As Jesus blesses little children: People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. / But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. / Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” / And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them. (Mark 10:13-16; cf. Matt 19:13-15)
As Jesus speaks to his host at a dinner: “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. / But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you,for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” / One of the dinner guests, on hearing this, said to him,“Blessed is anyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” (Luke 14:12-15; followed by the Parable of the Great Dinner)
The Risen Jesus blesses his disciples just before his Ascension: Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. / While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. (Luke 24:50-51)
In the Acts of the Apostles, Paul quotes an otherwise unknown saying of Jesus: “In all this I have given you an example that by such workwe must support the weak, remembering the words of the LordJesus, for he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” (Acts 20:35)
10) Blessings in the Parables of Jesus:
“Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit / be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. / Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt andhave them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. / If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.” (Luke 12:35-38)
“Who then is the faithful and wise slave, whom his master has put in charge of his household, to give the other slaves their allowance of food at the proper time? / Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives. / Truly I tell you, he will put that one in charge of all his possessions.” (Matt 24:45-47; cf. Luke 12:42-44)
“Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; / for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty andyou gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, / I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ ” (Matt 25:34-36)
11) Quoting from the Psalms, crowds call Jesus blessed as he enters Jerusalem:
Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! / Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” (Mark 11:9-10; cf. Matt 21:9; 23:39; Luke 13:35; 19:38; John 12:13)
“Save us, we beseech you, O LORD! O LORD, we beseech you, give us success! / Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD. We bless you from the house of the LORD.” (Ps 118:26)
12) Climactic Challenges and Final Blessings in the Fourth Gospel:
At the Last Supper: “So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. / For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. / Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. / If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” (John 13:14-17)
The Risen Jesus appears and speaks to Thomas: “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” (John 20:29)
13) Blessings in the Letters of Paul:
“So also David speaks of the blessedness of those to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works: Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the one against whom the Lord will not reckon sin. Is this blessedness, then, pronounced only on the circumcised, or also on the uncircumcised? We say, ‘Faith was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness.’ ” (Rom 4:6-9)
“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.” (Rom 12:14)
“The faith that you have, have as your own conviction beforeGod. Blessed are those who have no reason to condemn themselves because of what they approve.” (Rom 14:22)
“To the present hour we are hungry and thirsty, we are poorly clothed and beaten and homeless, / and we grow weary from the work of our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure;” (1Cor 4:11-12)
“A wife is bound as long as her husband lives. But if the husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, only in the Lord. / But in my judgment she is more blessed if she remains as she is. And I think that I too have the Spirit of God.” (1Cor 7:39-40)
“And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, declared the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘All the Gentiles shall be blessed in you.’ / For this reason, those who believe are blessed with Abraham who believed.” (Gal 3:8-9)
“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’— / in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” (Gal 3:13-14)
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, / just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love.” (Eph 1:3-4)
14) Blessings in the Epistle of James:
“Blessed is anyone who endures temptation. Such a one has stood the test and will receive the crown of life that theLord has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12)
“But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty,and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers whoact—they will be blessed in their doing.” (James 1:25)
“Indeed we call blessed those who showed endurance. You have heard of the endurance of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” (James 5:11)
15) Blessings in the First Letter of Peter:
“Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called—that you might inherit a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:9)
“But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated,” (1 Peter 3:14)
“If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed,because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God,is resting on you.” (1 Peter 4:14)
16) Blessings in the Book of Revelation:
“Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of the prophecy, and blessed are those who hear and who keep what is written in it; for the time is near.” (Rev 1:3)
“And I heard a voice from heaven saying, Write this: ‘Blessed are the dead who from now on die in the Lord.’ ‘Yes,’ saysthe Spirit, ‘they will rest from their labors, for theirdeeds follow them.’ ” (Rev 14:13)
“See, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake and is clothed, not going about naked and exposedto shame.” (Rev 16:15)
“And the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are thosewho are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ Andhe said to me, ‘These are true words of God.’ ” (Rev 19:9)
“Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. Over these the second death has no power, but they willbe priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign withhim a thousand years.” (Rev 20:6)
“See, I am coming soon! Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” (Rev 22:7)
“Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they will have the right to the tree of life and may enter the cityby the gates.” (Rev 22:14)
[Note: All quotations are taken from the NRSV, the "New Revised Standard Version" of the Bible.]