Memorial of Saint Benedict, abbot
(Genesis 32:23-33; Matthew 9:32-38)
In his encyclical Veritatis Splendor St. John Paul II calls conscience “the voice of God.” There God speaks telling a person whether an action is right or wrong. Sometimes, however, the person questions what she hears. The initial judgment seems facile with more consideration of the circumstances being needed. Now the person is struggling with her conscience. In this way Jacob can be said as wrestling with God in today’s first reading.
Jacob to this point is no paragon of virtue. Most egregiously, he colluded with his mother to rob Esau of his inheritance. He has also married two wives and has fathered children with two other women. Now he struggles with his conscience. That neither Jacob nor the stranger with whom he wrestled throughout the night wins the fight indicates a mixed judgment. He has done evil, but he is not a bad man. He will need to change some ways, but Jacob proves himself capable of advancing God’s project of building a great nation.
Today the Church celebrates St. Benedict, a holy man who established the cenobite or communal monastic tradition in Western Europe. As Jacob is accredited with a major role in building the nation of Israel, Benedict is recognized for his contribution to Western Civilization. Benedictine monks preserved the legacies from Greece and Rome and added to them the wisdom of Christianity. In celebrating Benedict we give thanks for both the humanistic and religious patrimonies that have been handed down to us through the ages.