Tuesday 11 July 2023 Saint Benedict, Abbot Week 14 in Ordinary Time
Jacob rose, and taking his two wives and his two slave-girls and his eleven children he crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream and sent all his possessions over too. And Jacob was left alone. And there was one that wrestled with him until daybreak who, seeing that he could not master him, struck him in the socket of his hip, and Jacob’s hip was dislocated as he wrestled with him. He said, ‘Let me go, for day is breaking.’ But Jacob answered, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’ He then asked, ‘What is your name?’ ‘Jacob’, he replied. He said, ‘Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have been strong against God, you shall prevail against men.’ Jacob then made this request, ‘I beg you, tell me your name’, but he replied, ‘Why do you ask my name?’ And he blessed him there. Jacob named the place Peniel, ‘Because I have seen God face to face,’ he said ‘and I have survived.’ The sun rose as he left Peniel, limping because of his hip. That is the reason why to this day the Israelites do not eat the sciatic nerve which is in the socket of the hip; because he had struck Jacob in the socket of the hip on the sciatic nerve.
Psalm 16 Lord, in my justice I shall see your face.
A man was brought to Jesus, a dumb demoniac. And when the devil was cast out, the dumb man spoke and the people were amazed. ‘Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel’ they said. But the Pharisees said, ‘It is through the prince of devils that he casts out devils.’
Jesus made a tour through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom and curing all kinds of diseases and sickness.
And when he saw the crowds he felt sorry for them because they were harassed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest.’
I guess we all have moments where we wrestle with God. The battle for control of our lives is an archetypal contest, which has been waged since Adam was a boy. The task to gain our independence as adults from parents, from systems we don’t quite fit into, is an ongoing struggle of differentiation and autonomy. Our Chapter prayer invites us to go beyond the wrestle with God when it says, ‘from ego to eco’, the true ‘eco’ being realised in moving beyond the struggling self and into a communal yes, that treasures the life of God that emerges from being God’s people.
The life of St. Benedict is an example of hearing the call to go beyond the self and find service of God in a community that does the work of God.
Jesus is moved by the crowds. He feels sorry for them. Empathy is the hallmark of the ecosystemic journey. To be empathic takes us beyond judgment, cynicism and fear, into a place of trust and self-giving. Jesus brings a new Kingdom. We see in him a New World emerging. A world that reaches out to suffering humanity. This urge calls him out of himself, just as he in turn calls for us to go out of ourselves as labourers to the harvest.