14th Tuesday in Ordinary Time
Genesis 32: 23-33; Matthew 9:32-38
In recent weeks, we have heard numerous accounts of Jesus driving out demons. Each account mentioned that the crowds were filled with amazement and terror at the demonstration of such power. Clearly, Jesus possessed that power, but He showed it in compassion and loving-kindness. Such an exercise of authority and power can shock even the most stalwart of hearts. How do you control someone who refuses to be bullied, and in the face of adversity, remains firm and unflappable? The author of the Letter to the Hebrews captured the situation beautifully when he wrote: “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb 10:31).
The first reading of today’s liturgy recounted Jacob’s encounter with God: “I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been spared” (Gen. 32:30). Jacob wrestled with the Master of the Universe who refused to be bullied and who, while locked in combat, remained firm and unflappable. Such grappling with God does not take courage. It takes faith. Jacob’s experience reminded me of Job’s conversation with God. “Brace yourself and stand like a man. I have some questions for you. I expect you to answer them” (Jb. 38:3). One can understand the amazement of those who find themselves standing face to face with the living God. If we are honest, we would have to admit that unlike Jacob, our first reaction would not be to stand there and fight. No, more like Adam and Eve, we would start looking for fig leaves and a tree to hide behind. Naked and vulnerable, Jacob grappled with God. Ignoring pain and exhaustion, he fights as if his life depended on it; and it did! No matter what the cost, he would hold fast to God. He refused to be denied the blessing he sought. With the rising of the sun, Jacob knew that he had, indeed, been granted all that he desired and entered into communion with the God he loved.
It is important to keep in mind that God comes to us just as he came to Jacob, as he came to Adam and Eve. “The Lord God called out to Adam and said to him, ‘Where are you?’” (Gen. 3:9). Since God first called us, we can rest assured that God will hear us when we call to Him in prayer. Like Jacob, we must be willing to grapple with God. When we find ourselves locked in Love’s embrace, we will find the strength we need to run on the path of God’s commandments. When Christ transformed the Cross of death into the Tree of life, he freed us from guilt and shame and clothed us in a mantel of justice. In his loving compassion, he became our companion and food for the journey home. We have a savior whose presence is always with us. He uses us to proclaim the Good News of salvation to all we meet.
I will close with a few lines from Henri Nouwen’s The Return of the Prodigal Son. “If I am able to look at the world with the eyes of God’s love and discover that God’s vision is… of an all-giving and forgiving father who does not measure out his love to his children according to how well they behave, then I quickly see that my only true response can be deep gratitude.”