Tuesday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time
(Genesis 32:23-33; Matthew 9:32-38)
A boy of about ten or eleven years old had a providential experience that affected his entire life. The boy heard from friends about the adolescent prank of stealing inner tube caps. One day he was playing at the curb of the street and began unscrewing the inner tube cap of a car that was parked there. Before he had the cap off, however, the car’s owner came out shouting, “What are you doing to that car.” The buy screwed the cap on quickly and was never tempted to steal again. In the reading from Genesis Jacob undergoes a similar life-changing experience.
Jacob has left his father-in-law’s ranch a wealthy man. His own wits, not God, made him rich. But God is not far away. He is the stranger with whom Jacob wrestles. The struggle is actually a metaphor for Jacob’s troubled conscience, the voice of God. He knows that he swindled his brother Esau years before and now cannot sleep because of guilt. Jacob survives the encounter and even manages to extract a blessing from his opponent. He will have to somehow reconcile with Esau but will no longer be defined by his twin brother. He was given the name Jacob meaning heel catcher because he was born lurching after Esau who came out of his mother’s womb first. From now on he will be called Israel after God Himself since Israel is said to mean you have struggled with God.
We too know what it is like to struggle with God when we ask ourselves questions like, “Did I dwell too long on an impure thought?” or “Would it be wrong to leave work early without permission?” As God does not destroy Jacob, he does not abandon us because of our sins. Rather, He lets us know that we are His sons and daughters whom He forgives and blesses when we honestly take account of our sins and make amends for them.