Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Are you entitled or blessed? 

By BISHOP BERNARD E. SHLESINGER III | Published March 7, 2024  | En Español

There are some in the world who feel “entitled,” as if the world owes them something, but live in perpetual dissatisfaction and have no peace. There are others in the world who feel “blessed,” as if God has showered his grace upon them but may feel cursed when encountering some difficult situation. Some say, “If you have your health, you have everything,” but I would say, “If you have God, you have everything you need!” 

Bishop Bernard E. Shlesinger III

Bishop Bernard E. Shlesinger III

I have met some prisoners who have no freedom to move about in society but are interiorly free and feel blessed because they have encountered God in his mercy and grace. These are the “poor in spirit” because they have learned to live dependently as a child of God instead of worldly men or women.  

Although the prisoners feel separated from society and family, they have cast their anchor into the heart of God and through a process of reconciliation have discovered interior peace. They display no sense of entitlement but rather humility. They preach to me more than I preach to them about what it means to be blessed when they are deprived of the ability to move about as one would want and feel confined to what they don’t want. 

Did not the prodigal son experience his greatest blessing in having his father show him mercy even after squandering his inheritance? Unfortunately, his older brother felt dissatisfied with his father’s sense of justice and failed to see true blessing in being with his father at the banquet of mercy. He was entitled rather than blessed. His father had to instruct him on how to celebrate life rather than live for what was his due. 

At the end of Mass, we may hear the words from the priest or deacon, “Bow down for the blessing!” This command at various liturgies prepares the faithful to receive God’s help as a blessing is imparted over them before being dismissed.  

Yet for many, this general invocation of a blessing is not enough for the circumstance or situation they are experiencing. I spend almost an hour after Mass imparting individual blessings. People ask for a blessing if they are going on a trip, leaving for college for the first time or asking me to invoke God’s help as they live with some infirmity or difficult situation. I bless their religious articles, their cars or their newborn children. In these cases, people really want God’s special help for their specific situation in life.   

By offering individual blessings as gesture of pastoral care, I am not approving a lifestyle or union that is irregular nor am I enabling someone to live in a situation that is contrary to God’s design. I am simply invoking God’s help for them given their situation in life or circumstance. People can always ask for God’s help from me. However, they are not entitled to have me or the church approve a lifestyle choice that is not in conformity with God’s will for his children. 

Lent is a time to become more disciplined, less entitled, more charitable and humbler.  

Lent is a time to count our blessings and realize that, despite our sinfulness, we are infinitely loved and in need of God’s help and salvation. Thus, a blessing is not rooted in being more prideful or feeling entitled, but in being less dependent on self and more dependent on God.  

“Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of God.”