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Tuesday – Fourteenth week – OT1
Readings: Gen 32:23-33; Mt 9:32-38.
1/ First Reading: RSV Genesis 32:23 He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. 24 And Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. 25 When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and Jacob’s thigh was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” 27 And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28 Then he said, “Your name shall no more be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” 29 Then Jacob asked him, “Tell me, I pray, your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. 30 So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.” 31 The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his thigh. 32 Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the sinew of the hip which is upon the hollow of the thigh, because he touched the hollow of Jacob’s thigh on the sinew of the hip.
2/ Gospel: RSV Matthew 9:32 As they were going away, behold, a dumb demoniac was brought to him. 33 And when the demon had been cast out, the dumb man spoke; and the crowds marveled, saying, “Never was anything like this seen in Israel.” 34 But the Pharisees said, “He casts out demons by the prince of demons.” 35 And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every infirmity. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
I. THEME: God is patient in saving people.
Some Greeks, though they believe in the One who creates and controls the world, but they don’t believe He concerns for human life. The reason for this belief is that God never changes. They reason if God concerns or grants people’s prayers, He is changed by people. In opposition, we believe that God always concerns for all people’s needs. He has such a power that though He grants people’s prayers, He is still not changed in His providence.
Today readings show God concerns for human life; and He is always patient to teach and to heal people. In the first reading, the author of Genesis reported the event which God appeared and wrestled with the patriarch Jacob all night long. This event wants to show that God is patient in saving people, and people must always cling to Him. In the Gospel, Jesus spent all his time to teach, to preach the Good News and to heal all wounds of human body and soul. He loves them because they were scattered around as sheep without a shepherd. He teaches his disciples to often pray so that God may send many good shepherds to people.
1/ Reading I: Jacob wrestled with God.
1.1/ The hostility between Esau and Jacob: To understand today passage, we need to know the hostility between the twin, Esau and Jacob. Though Esau was born first; but Rebekah, their mother, set up a clever plan so Jacob took away Esau’s first-born right and Isaac’s blessing for him. Esau was anger because of this plan and was finding a way to revenge. Esau together with his four hundreds men were on the way to look for Jacob; and Jacob was hiding from Esau. Jacob was very afraid for his fate and family. He prayed to God, “Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I fear him, lest he come and slay us all, the mothers with the children.”
(1) The all night wrestling between Jacob and the stranger: The author of Genesis reported, “The same night he arose and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. And Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day” (Gen 32:22-24).
The wrestle between a human being and a god often happens in the mythological stories. In such stories, a god used to be the one who owns the river, and often be present at night, and be forced to reveal his origin or the secret things for people. All these three elements are in today passage. This shows the author of Genesis could be affected by these stories with a purpose to convey God’s will for people.
(2) The wrestle’s result: The author continued to report, “When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and Jacob’s thigh 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.”And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.”Then he said, “Your name shall no more be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.”Then Jacob asked him, “Tell me, I pray, your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him.”
The stranger refused to reveal his name for Jacob, but the fact that he blessed Jacob partly revealed his identity. Jacob could guess it through his naming of that place “Peniel” which means “God’s face.” Moreover, the explanation after that also shows Jacob knew the stranger is God, “So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.”
1.2/ The wrestle’s results:
(1) God changed Jacob’s name and blessed him: God changed Jacob’s name to Israel which means, “You have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” The verb “to strive” in Hebrew is “sarah” and used here at past tense “yisra” with the suffix “el” to be “yisra-el.” The relation between God and Israel is compared as a wrestle, and Israel shall be victorious though they aren’t worthy. To change one’s name is to give him a mission. God gave Jacob a mission to be the patriarch of God’s people. These people bear his name, Israel, and always are blessed by God.
(2) Jacob’s thigh was put out of joint: Though Jacob was victorious, he must pay the price for the wrestle, not completely healthy: “he limped because of his thigh.” The Jewish tradition of not eating the sinew probably is an old tradition; because they no longer observe this habit.
2/ Gospel: “Ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.”
2.1/ Jesus went everywhere to preach and to heal: In three years of Jesus’ public ministry, he wandered around all regions of Palestines to preach and to heal all kinds of sickness for people. In spite of that, he met many oppositions from Pharisees, scribes and Roman government. Today passage is a typical example.
(1) Two people’s reactions when Jesus expelled a dumb demon:
– The crowds were amazed and said, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.”The crowd was sincere, whatever they see they voive their opinion. They weren’t influenced by prejudices and beneficial calculation.
– But the Pharisees said, “He drives out demons by the prince of demons.” They condemned Jesus of having relation with the devil so that they didn’t have to believe and to keep his teaching. Moreover, they didn’t want people to follow Jesus, because they were afraid of loosing their power, authority and material gains.
(2) Jesus’ reaction: He gave no concern for their criticism, but minded his own business. He went around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness. Three things we should learn from him in this passage:
– Teaching: To help people to differentiate between truth and falsehood in the world.
– Preaching the Gospel: To proclaim God’s love for people and to show them how to live in order to reach their salvation.
– Healing all spiritual and physical sickness: He had pity for all people’s pain and sorrow. He wanted to take away all of their sufferings.
2.2/ Jesus concerned for people’s lacking of good leaders: Not only concerning for his contemporary, he concerns also for future generations. He told them to pray for good leaders to care for their offsprings: “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.”
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– God always concerns for the life of each of us. He finds all possible ways to care for, to educate and to heal all wounds of our body and soul.
– We must be patient with God in trials and sufferings. Once we were healed, we must co-operate with God in caring, educating and healing others.
– “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” In the year of the priests, we should find all possible ways to increase the priestly and the religious vocations so that the Church might have many good laborers for God.