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From: Genesis 32:23-33 (New American Bible)
Genesis 32:22-32 (Revised Standard Version)

Jacob Wrestles with the Angel of the Lord

[22] The same night he arose and took his two wives, his two maids, and his
eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. [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 prev-
ailed.” [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.


32:22-29. In spite of the danger and even though he feels afraid, Jacob takes an
important decision on his journey towards the land of Canaan—to cross the river,
bringing his nearest and dearest with him. From the text we do not know which
side of the river Jacob himself was on after that decision, but he was clearly
alone when God mysteriously came out to meet him and transformed him. The
account tells us that God revealed himself to Jacob and made him Israel and
gave him a blessing which extended to all his people. The concept of God in this
passage has clearly anthropomorphic features. Jacob’s strength is highlighted:
God fails to defeat him in this struggle and he dislocates his thigh. This fact and
the fact that God wants to leave before daybreak allow Jacob to recognize God
in the person he is wrestling; taking advantage of his strength and the time con-
straint, he asks for a blessing. First, however, Jacob has to identify himself;
then God changes his name: now he is Israel.

In the context of the narrative the sacred writer explains what the name Israel
means—”he who has striven with God”. This shows one of the key features of
the personality of the father of the chosen people—his struggle to hold on to God,
trying to discover his name and obtain his blessing. This is also a defining fea-
ture of the religious nature of the people of God. We discover the significance of
Jacob’s attempt to discover the name of his “rival”, and all that that implied as
regards having some power over him. But God does not identify himself. He re-
mains shrouded in mystery, yet he does give Jacob his blessing. This will also
be a feature which should define Israel—the continuous search for the name of
God, that is, for his innermost Being and his Mystery, yet realizing that God
can never be encompassed within the meaning of any name.

The features whereby the patriarch Jacob-Israel is described also apply to the
people that bears his name. The prophet Hosea will apply this episode to the
way Israel resists God over the course of its history (Hos 12:4-6). This aspect
can also be seen in the patriarch’s life: in spite of his resistance, God advances
his salvific plans for his people through him and through his life. We can see this
in what Hosea has to say about the people of Israel and about Jacob himself.

The mysterious nature of the one who wrestles with Jacob has been interpreted
in many different ways in Christian tradition. Some Fathers, such as St Jerome
and St Augustine, were of the view that he was a good angel, given that that was
how God most often revealed himself in the Old Testament. Origen, however,
thought that he was a bad angel, the demon. Others, such as St Justin and St
Ambrose, suggested that he was the Son of God, the Word, who would later
become man; or an angel who prefigured Christ.

The struggle depicted here can also be taken in a spiritual sense, as standing
for the interior struggle and the efficacy of prayer, which overpowers even God
(cf. Wis 10:12). “From this account, the spiritual tradition of the Church has re-
tained the symbol of prayer as a battle of faith and as the triumph of perseve-
rance (cf. Gen 32:25-31; Lk 18:1-8)” (”Catechism of the Catholic Church”,

Along these lines St Ambrose writes: “What does fighting with God mean if not
engaging in the combat of virtue and aspiring to the highest, making oneself,
above all, an imitator of God? And because his faith and his devotion could not
be overpowered, the Lord revealed to him the secret mysteries” (”De Jacob et
Vita Beata”, 2,7, 30).

32:31. After the explanation of the meaning of the name of the place (Penuel)
and the name of the person or people (Israel), we are now told about the origin
of a dietary law. The hagiographer uses this tradition to confirm the truthfulness
of the foregoing account, offering a proof taken from the customs of the people
and also providing an explanation for that custom. Although this use of ground-
less folk explanation is a common device, it does not take from the point the
writer is making: he wants to show that what he is teaching is true.

Source: “The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries”. Biblical text from the
Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries by members of
the Faculty of Theology, University of Navarre, Spain.

Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland, and
by Scepter Publishers in the United States.

14 posted on 07/04/2011 10:25:57 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: All

From: Matthew 9:32-38

The Dumb Devil

[32] As they were going away, behold, a dumb demoniac was brought to Him
(Jesus). [33] And when the demon had been cast out, the dumb man spoke;
and the crowds marvelled, saying, “Never was anything like this seen in Israel.”
[34] But the Pharisees said, “He casts out demons by the prince of demons.”

The Need for Good Shepherds

[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 harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”


35. The Second Vatican Council uses this passage when teaching about the
message of Christian charity which the Church should always be spreading:
“Christian charity is extended to all without distinction of race, social condition
or religion, and seeks neither gain nor gratitude. Just as God loves us with a
gratuitous love, so too the faithful, in their charity, should be concerned for man-
kind, loving it with that same love with which God sought man. As Christ went
about all the towns and villages healing every sickness and infirmity, as a sign
that the Kingdom of God had come, so the Church, through its children, joins it-
self with men of every condition, but especially with the poor and afflicted, and
willingly spends herself for them” (”Ad Gentes”, 12).

36. “He had compassion for them”: the Greek verb is very expressive; it means
“He was deeply moved”. Jesus was moved when He saw the people, because
their pastors, instead of guiding them and tending them, led them astray, beha-
ving more like wolves than genuine shepherds of their flock. Jesus sees the
prophecy of Ezekiel 34 as now being fulfilled; in that passage God, through the
prophet, upbraids the false shepherds of Israel and promises to send them the
Messiah to be their new leader.

“If we were consistent with our faith when we looked around us and contemplated
the world and its history, we would be unable to avoid feeling in our own hearts
the same sentiments that filled the heart of our Lord” (St. J. Escriva, “Christ Is
Passing By”, 133). Reflection on the spiritual needs of the world should lead us
to be tirelessly apostolic.

37-38. After contemplating the crowds neglected by their shepherds, Jesus uses
the image of the harvest to show us that that same crowd is ready to receive the
effects of Redemption: “I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see now the fields are
already white for harvest” (John 4:35). The field of the Jewish people cultivated
by the prophets—most recently by John the Baptist—is full of ripe wheat. In farm
work, the harvest is lost if the farmer does not reap at the right time; down the
centuries the Church feels a similar need to be out harvesting because there is
a big harvest ready to be won.

However, as in the time of Jesus, there is a shortage of laborers. Our Lord tells
us how to deal with this: we should pray to God, the Lord of harvest, to send the
necessary laborers. If a Christian prays hard, it is difficult to imagine his not fee-
ling urged to play his part in this apostolate. In obeying this commandment to
pray for laborers, we should pray especially for there to be no lack of shepherds,
who will be able to equip others with the necessary means of sanctification
needed to back up the apostolate.

In this connection [Pope] Paul VI reminds us: “the responsibility for spreading
the Gospel that saves belongs to everyone—to all who have received it! The mis-
sionary duty concerns the whole body of the Church; in different ways and to
different degrees, it is true, but we must all of us be united in carrying out this
duty. Now let the conscience of every believer ask himself: Have I carried out
my missionary duty? Prayer for the Missions is the first way of fulfilling this
duty” (”Angelus Address”, 23 October 1977).

Source: “The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries”. Biblical text from the
Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries by members of
the Faculty of Theology, University of Navarre, Spain.

Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland, and
by Scepter Publishers in the United States.

15 posted on 07/04/2011 10:26:27 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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