6TH JULY 2021
WRESTLING WITH GOD
Today's First Reading from a section of Genesis 32 is mysterious. From it we hear that Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. Was it a dream as it was in Genesis 28:10-22?
Was it a metaphor for his fear of his brother Esau whom he was escaping from? Was it an angel of God?
The text does not identify the man but Jacob says he has fought with God and prevailed. Are we comfortable or uncomfortable with knowing the man's identity?
Maybe we are uncomfortable with knowing the man's identity, so we speculate but this speculation leads to no firm answers.
If the identity of the man is not disclosed, maybe his identity is not the point of the story, so what do we learn from this narrative?
First, the encounter left Jacob wounded and we do not know if the injury was permanent but the text notes he was limping as he left the place and this was a mark, a remnant that Jacob carried away from that place.
We also learn that Jacob did not give up the fight but his opponent gave up.
Jacob was tenacious and at daybreak he won the match by refusing to let go. Life is sometimes like that. Things happen that cannot be rationalized or easily understood. We survive by nothing more elegant than not giving up.
There are times when we have felt like the people Jesus tends to in the Gospel passage: harassed and hopeless, twisted and turned by the challenges of life in this world, and longing to win a fight no matter how long it takes and be guided and helped by the Shepherd.
Most of us have had seasons in our lives where we too fight with the mysteries of life. We carry the injuries of our struggles. We limp. Every loss, every divorce, and separation, every diagnosis of a life threatening disease, every unemployment, every addiction, every mistake we make, every death of a loved one- all leave their marks on us; and like Jacob, sometimes all we have to do is hang on.
As it is in the text, the identity of the mystery is not needed, we only understand the struggle is with life and with God and coming to terms with the mystery of God and life.
We live in a culture that celebrates winners, a culture that celebrates those that defeat the other in any aspect of life that seems competitive without wanting to know the method that was used as a way to win.
It is not just about winning but it is about hanging on and how confident we are of God's grace and refusing to let go of God until a blessing provides new insights that will once again transform us.
The First Reading should not be misconstrued to mean that we can place demands on God, Jacob's win should not be celebrated as a way of advancing a sentimental way of faith that easily leads to prosperity but it should teach us that the Christian life is difficult but God is intimately entangled and engaged with weak humans, seeks them out and blesses them even in unpredictable ways to transform us and give us a new name, a new attitude, a new direction, calling to mind Jacob's past manipulative and deceitful life.