09Jul 9 July, 2013. Tuesday of the Fourteenth Week

Gen 32:23ff. On his return home after years in exile, Jacob finds himself wrestling with an angel of God, at Peniel.

Matt 9:32ff. Jesus cures the sick, teaches and proclaims the good news of the reign of God, for the harvest is ready.

First Reading: Genesis 32:23-33

He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him.

So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.” The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip. Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the thigh muscle that is on the hip socket, because he struck Jacob on the hip socket at the thigh muscle.

Gospel: Matthew 9:32-38

After they had gone away, a demoniac who was dumb was brought to him. And when the demon had been cast out, the one who had been dumb spoke; and the crowds were amazed and said, “Never has anything like this been seen in Israel.” But the Pharisees said, “By the ruler of the demons he casts out the demons.”

Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.”

Just Limping Along

What the gospel presents in summary style is treated at a more leisurely pace in a story from Genesis. Matthew overlooks the weary journeys, the mixed receptions, sometimes favourable and sometimes not, that Jesus met with. It is all stated quickly and simply: he continued his tour of all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the reign of God, and curing every sickness and disease. Once cured of sickness and disease, a person enters an entirely new life. One who had been crippled or confined to bed, blind or deaf had been forced to adapt to that situation. Their relationship with others, their management of personal details, their way of getting from place to put – all aspects of their life were adjusted and made as liveable as possible. The disabled ones must have come to terms with the situation, not necessarily liking it, so that their thoughts and emotions were thoroughly colored by sickness or incapacity. Suddenly they are cured, and their entire life must be reshaped, both their external work and their internal thoughts.

Like that, abruptly thrust into a whole new scene, Jacob wrestled all night long with the angel of God. The text states at the end that Jacob had been face to face with God in his wrestling. For this reason he named the place “Peniel,” in Hebrew, “face of God.” He explains, “I have seen God face to face yet my life has been spared,” in contrast to the tradition that no one can see the face of God and remain alive (Exod 33:20). Jacob’s dramatic change involved a return from the northern country of Haran (in modern Syria) to the promised land, eventually to be named after him. He is told, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, because you have contended with divine and human beings and have prevailed.” To be given a new name is to embark on a new vocation. His future life was to be markedly different and it was also to be decidedly under God’s providence.

We may have to wrestle with sudden changes in our lives: from sickness to health, or vice-versa; from a happy family to one stricken with death; from a compatible employment to loss of work; from economic security to financial worries, or vice versa. Perhaps, as Hosea once said to Israel, we are sent back to our starting point, back to Egypt. Yet as we are sent into our “Egypt,” we are no infant or child; we are mature, accustomed to independence, and now we are stricken with this disability.

Jacob had a limp after his wrestling with the angel. We too can no longer walk straight; unable to stand tall We should hear God say to us: you have a new name, a new call, a new and different contribution to life. In your weakness you will find a new type of strength: “God chose those whom the world considers absurd to shame the wise; he selects the weak of this world to shame the strong… so that mankind cannot boast before God, who has given you life in Christ Jesus” (1 Cor 1:27-30).

One Response

  1. Wanderer

    Just limping along is very apt at present withe me.

    Thanks for sharing these. I have, had reached a stage when it all seemed meaningless, pointless. Not lost my faith as such, just the sense of what to have faith in – in Whom.

    It was/is no disrespect to any good priest or cleric but such being the last I wished to approach or speak to. Male or female. All those things that had been special to me – have/had some degree, a power to hold me to this world, not least the love of children, seem too to have lost that power. What was the point. Pain – on various levels and that’s no self pity. Just being honest about chronic pain how it saps our life energy from the life in us some times.

    Really wearying of being here for more of the same. Trying to be a good person, wanting to be, but always something to slap you in the face and reminded you too of those who’d affirm in this mentality,the likes of Augustine – maybe Paul himself, “You are not good enough. You are filthy rads. You will never be good enough. It’s a waste of even thinking to hope. believe – try try.

    Limping alone ready and maybe wanting to fall and just not get up ain this time, with, or without help.

    Then despite that voice what cries, whispers, shouts at times how deluded we all are – faithless in a real faith – failure, never works out of ever works out and give up for the rest of your life. However short or long it might be – praying the shorter and soon.

    Mary, like issues the Adhan – a call to prayer. From where and how I know know, just that inner sense that nomatter how worthless seem, how the world makes us feel, we can always pray, should pray always and the dark will dissipate. Had to drag myself there and ask help – and it came and glad I did. Still exhausted physically and mentally – but with a more secure foundational prayer life upon which to build again. A ‘Stone’ renewed.

    Not limping as badly today and hopefully learn to crawl, walk and fly again.

    God bless your all. and may we all reach out when weak, when we fall – especially when the “Liar and Father is Lies would tell us how worthless we are before the infinitely loving Father.” Banish him and lies lies to your heart, mind and soul.