Scripture: Lectionary 384. Genesis 32:23-33. Psalm 17:1.2-3.6-7.8.15. Matthew 9:32-38:
Jacob encounters a powerful man of God (an angel) who wrestles with him during the night; neither prevails and in the end Jacob is left limping with a sciatic nerve problem! Having had many of these and also a hip replacement, I found the narrative and story quite intriguing. It is an important event in the life of Jacob for his name is now to be Israel—“the Strength of God” for he struggled with God’s angel. Again a place name is given to this experience of Jacob and it spells out the happening for our patriarch. He named it Peniel which means the face of God.
Many of us struggle with God in our lives. We grow from our adolescent images of the “old man in the skies” to other images that sometimes are just as frightening as the earlier childhood images. We are called to grow and to see the face of God as Abraham did. He talked to God as a friend and exchanged his thoughts with God with a wonderful freedom. Both testaments present God as love. We need to cut away the cultural settings in many of the passages in order to get to the person of God and Jesus so that we do not get bogged down with some of the typical Catholic prejudices against the Old Testament and our not probing deeply enough the messages of both testaments. The early Church always used both the Old Testament and New Testament in their homilies, sermons, and writings. In fact, both they, the Fathers and Mothers of the Church insisted on both testaments. Vatican II document on Dei Verbum or Divine Revelation is insistent on this, yet, many Catholics continue to stay away from reading God’s word in the wonderful library of the Old Testament. As I mentioned recently we are mirrored in the Scriptures and can find our true characters with faults, sins, and good points as well. We are all sinners and we can learn much about ourselves through the entire Bible which is divinely inspired.
Jacob’s name was changed to Israel; our names were changed at Baptism. We name our Churches after the saints of both testaments. They are our Peniel—face of God that Jacob named.
B. Jacob writes, “God answers a person’s prayers if the person prays by searching himself, becoming his own opponent.” Jacob learned this by the experiences of his life. He moved from being a trickster to being a person walking in the strength of God, thus, Israel was his new name. Amen.
Copyright 2013 Fr. Bertrand Buby, S.M.