The Christian Faith – A Daily Struggle, A Wrestling
The mysterious wrestling of Jacob with God is typical of the wrestling of the Christians of today with themselves and with God – with God seen in the light and the obscurity of faith. Faith is indeed often a wrestling in the night with realities that surpass us, with a God so great and yet so lovable that he appears unbelievable, so different from us, at times like absent, and yet so near. In these struggles, it is often not clear with whom we are wrestling. But we must hold on; we may not allow ourselves to be beaten, until something beautiful is born, a blessing. Also Christ had to wrestle until the dawn of the resurrection and of life.
Jesus was spreading his message of good news in word and deed. Today he asks that there may be among us many who hear and accept his invitation to continue his work and to bring his liberating compassion to the people of our day. At least, all of us should pray for such messengers, for the need is urgent today more than ever.
1 Reading: 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.
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 17:1b, 2-3, 6-7ab, 8b and 15
R. (15a) In justice, I shall behold your face, O Lord.
Hear, O LORD, a just suit;
attend to my outcry;
hearken to my prayer from lips without deceit. R.
From you let my judgment come;
your eyes behold what is right.
Though you test my heart, searching it in the night,
though you try me with fire, you shall find no malice in me. R.
I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God;
incline your ear to me; hear my word.
Show your wondrous mercies,
O savior of those who flee from their foes. R.
Hide me in the shadow of your wings.
I in justice shall behold your face;
on waking, I shall be content in your presence. R.
Alleluia: John 10:14
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I am the good shepherd, says the Lord;
I know my sheep, and mine know me.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel: 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.”
We will probably be forever at a loss to determine what happened to Jacob at the Jabbok on that mysterious night, and yet there is no doubt that it represented a bitter struggle between God and the patriarch, and through it all Jacob prevailed. Was it a question of Jacob’s doubts about his mission? Or was it simply a test of faith? Although the stranger refuses to give his name, Jacob names the place “Peniel” because there he had dealt with God face to face.
Some people struggle with their faith for years on end. They may feel trapped by beliefs inherited from their forebears, or they may struggle with limitations placed on their conduct by the church. Or perhaps they have suffered rebuff or hostility from a member of the clergy. The causes may be many, and the solutions are not always easy. But faith for such people is not simple acquiescence. Out of hard questioning, faith can be strengthened. And that is a real plus.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus casts out demons. The demons were the antithesis to everything godly. Jesus’ mission in the world was to overcome evil and offer the pathway to freedom and eternity. We too may have our struggles with God, but we must have courage. Faith is not easily acquired nor easily surrendered. Questioning often leads to clarity and a fuller access to God. But let it be “fides quaerens intellectum” (faith seeking understanding [faith seeking to know]).
It is good to encounter the Lord not only in our joys but especially in our struggles. He is there and we may count on him. May almighty God bless you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!