Daily Gospel

MAY 21, 2020 THURSDAY 

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.’  — from Genesis 32
 

Dear Friends in Christ,

Do you find you’re wrestling with God these days? Who is ultimately is not an age-old question, but a struggle. I love those times when Moses and God converse about the Hebrews. It sounds more like a fight where neither want nor claim this rebellious tribe. They have a “real” relationship. Fear of God sometimes keeps us at a distance. Distance is safer, as we know from the creation story when Adam and Eve try to hide from the Lord, unsuccessfully.

Jacob did not know in the moment with whom he wrestles. He puts up a pretty good fight. How can you prevail against one whose power is greater? Some say Jacob wrestles with an angel of the Lord – a manifestation of God’s presence.  Jacob names the place, and says he has seen the face of God and lives. That night they contend for a deeper relationship. To see God’s face is to see his presence.

Larry Lee Lichtenwalter in Wrestling with Angels says Jacob inspires us to wrestle with God and angels in our lives. It’s a way to strengthen our faith. He says when we lose, we win. In spite of the “limp and surrender” Jacob wins. He contends with the unknown. The Lord wins his heart. Up to this time he’s been pretty devious, and has learned the hard way.

God promises his presence with us — angels around us in many forms. Some may be family, friends, neighbors. They may be inner voices emerging from darkness we have long battled with, and pushed back. Angels of the Lord’s presence can strengthen us, as they call us out and challenge us. They may be calling us more deeply into God’s love and life for us, if we pay attention.

Contending with God yields a blessing. It’s part of faith, our trust in God who wills and wants your good, not harm. Always keep that image of the divine forefront in your mind and let it trickle into your heart. A man dying of cancer was adamant that God would heal him. He’d won every battle he’d ever faced. It wasn’t going to be this time. I wasn’t thinking in that moment, when we lose, we win. Just tie a knot at the end of the rope and hang on. He was fighting not with his pride, but his fear. If he could come into a place of peace and trust with God, let go — what he feared in inevitably “losing,” this battle, would be revealed as God’s “win” for him.

In that moment, Jacob had “striven” and prevailed. What still lay ahead was not a “walk through the park.” He still must face brother Esau. I suspect a bit of rolling around in the dirt that night strengthened his confidence, not so much in who he is, but in the Lord, who knows when all is said and done — who wins and blesses.

May the Lord’s presence bless you in all your struggles, doubts, and fears,                      this day and everyday, Fr. Steve
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