July 9, 2019 – Tuesday 14th Week in Ordinary Time
From the Book of Genesis (32:23-33)
In the course of the night, Jacob arose, took his two wives,
with the two maidservants and his eleven children,
and crossed the ford of the Jabbok.
After he had taken them across the stream
and had brought over all his possessions,
Jacob was left there alone.
Then some man wrestled with him until the break of dawn.
When the man saw that he could not prevail over him,
he struck Jacob’s hip at its socket,
so that the hip socket was wrenched as they wrestled.
The man then said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
But Jacob said, “I will not let you go until you bless me.”
The man asked, “What is your name?”
He answered, “Jacob.”
Then the man said,
“You shall no longer be spoken of as Jacob, but as Israel,
because you have contended with divine and human beings
and have prevailed.”
Jacob then asked him, “Do tell me your name, please.”
He answered, “Why should you want to know my name?”
With that, he bade him farewell.
Jacob named the place Peniel,
“Because I have seen God face to face,” he said,
“yet my life has been spared.”
At sunrise, as he left Penuel,
Jacob limped along because of his hip.
That is why, to this day, the children of Israel do not eat
the sciatic muscle that is on the hip socket,
inasmuch as Jacob’s hip socket was struck at the sciatic muscle.
From the Gospel of Matthew (9:32-38)
A demoniac who could not speak was brought to Jesus,
and when the demon was driven out the mute man spoke.
The crowds were amazed and said,
“Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.”
But the Pharisees said,
“He drives out demons by the prince of demons.”
Jesus went around to all the towns and villages,
teaching in their synagogues,
proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom,
and curing every disease and illness.
At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them
because they were troubled and abandoned,
like sheep without a shepherd.
Then he said to his disciples,
“The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few;
so ask the master of the harvest
to send out laborers for his harvest.”
Have you been so deep in your prayers now because you are asking a blessing from God? How badly do you need that blessing?
Somehow, such need would move us to advance our prayers. Some would visit Churches and offer candles so that their petitions will be heard. Others would call their friends and ask for their prayers too. Moreover, because we seriously need that blessing that we are hoping for, we somehow may become anxious. We might become also worried and will seem to lose our peace of mind.
This is not something strange, but natural for a person who feels uncertain of what lies ahead. This kind of situation has been retold to us in that story of Jacob, who wrestled with God, in the Book of Genesis.
Jacob was troubled and was in great distress. He was with his two wives and children but he chose to be left alone to spend time with himself. He was about to meet his twin-brother Esau who had 400 men waiting for him. Jacob knew that his brother was also desperate to kill him for the deception that he did with his mother, Rebekah, by stealing the blessing from their father, Isaac.
Thus, Jacob must have been looking for comfort from God. However, instead of comfort and sweet words from the Lord, a man came and wrestled with him. This was not what Jacob expected. Yet, Jacob also wrestled with all his strength to seek the blessing from that man. Jacob did not surrender even though his hip had already been dislocated.
This showed us the determination of Jacob that despite the difficulty of the situation and the pain that he endured on his hip, he did not let go. And this amazed God!
Jacob realized that it was God who wrestled with him. In seeking God’s blessing, Jacob was so persistent until God blessed him. Consequently, Jacob was given the blessing. This is the reason why he was renamed from Jacob (which means deceiver) to Israel (which means who wrestles with God).
Now, Israel realized that he had a face to face with God, and with that he had been transformed by the Lord. This tells us that our struggles and every wrestle with God is an opportunity for us to have a face to face with God. Remember this, God makes himself more present when we are vulnerable and weak. This is symbolized by the dislocation of the hip of Jacob.
God uses our weaknesses, illnesses, fears and anxieties as windows for him to reveal his power in us and his blessings for us. This is what we find as well in the Gospel today. A man was brought to Jesus. He was made dumb, he could not speak because the demon in him prevented him. But when this man had a face to face with Jesus, his dumbness was transformed. The demon was driven out, and the man found freedom and began to speak. This is another story of blessing and transformation.
The encounter with Jesus was the blessing and that blessing transformed the man to be free and his sickness was that window to let God’s power be manifested.
This is the invitation for us today. We might be wrestling with a particular issue, problem, challenge, or sickness or concern at this very moment. This could have caused us with sleepless nights, with feelings of fear, desperation and weakness, with loneliness and anxieties, but remember, God comes to us in a surprising way, as he did it with Jacob.
God invites to wrestle with him in those moments of difficulties. Not to be afraid but to find our strength in the trying moments of our life. As we would wrestle with God in our prayers, let us be open also to God’s surprises for us because his blessing may not be in the way we expect it or would imagine it. But surely, like Jacob, at the end we shall be blessed and be transformed in the way God desires it to be. And like the possessed man who was healed and freed, our face to face with Jesus in our moments of desperation and trials, will also bring us healing and freedom, which is God blessing to us. Hinaut pa.
Jom Baring, CSsR