Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Tuesday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

 (Genesis 32:23-33; Matthew 9:32-38)

Today’s episode of the saga of Jacob takes place at least twenty years after his famous dream that was reported yesterday.  In this long interval Jacob has acquired two wives and twelve children.  He has become rich by hard work, skill, and cunning, but not through noticeable reliance on God. As he returns to his father’s land and to his probably vengeful brother Esau, a man attacks him.  The two wrestle all night with neither actually prevailing.  Then the assailant, in a hurry to leave, strikes Jacob at his hip which will bring about a limp.  Still Jacob holds on tenaciously to make a bargain with his opponent.  He will release him only if the man returns the favor with a blessing.  The man gives Jacob a new name suggestive of his new stature.  From now on he is no longer Jacob, a name which means heel catcher because he was born holding his twin brother Esau’s heel, but Israel, a name indicating that he has struggled with God and prevailed.

 What are we to make of all this?  For most of his life to this point Jacob has ignored God.  As he is about to encounter his brother Esau, however, God throws Himself on Jacob in an act of saving grace.  Jacob is forced to struggle with God, who mercifully does not destroy him but leaves him limping as a constant reminder of Jacob’s dependence.  The incident changes Jacob’s life entirely.  He is no longer defined by Esau, but by God whom he comes to acknowledge as Lord.

Perhaps we in our doubts and fears also struggle with God.  It may be that out of love for God we always try to accommodate others.  “Why,” we ask, “is it always I who must give in?”  Yes, we are a bit jaded by the experience of forever making ourselves available.  But we are also left closer to God who, we can be sure, has bestowed on us His blessing.