The same night he got up 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.
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.” Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him.
So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.” The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip. Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the thigh muscle that is on the hip socket, because he struck Jacob on the hip socket at the thigh muscle.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
Jacob limps away from his encounter with God. He gets his blessing but getting close to God is risky and it costs something. The writer Flannery O’Connor always loved to depict the work of God’s grace as violent, and I can’t help but wonder if this was one of her favorite scripture passages. I am more comfortable thinking of God as a warm, loving parent ready to support me through anything. Yet Jesus both promised great things to those who followed him and was also clear that the way was going to be difficult and violent—just as his own life demonstrated.
Since I am imperfect and prone to my own sins and self-involvements, the grace needed to follow Christ might also leave me limping. How can I be more open to God’s grace today and more ready to see it even in the pain and struggle of my life?
—Nick Courtney, SJ, is a Jesuit scholastic from the USA Central and Southern Province currently working at Strake Jesuit College Preparatory in Houston, TX, where he teaches history and coaches football.
God, help me to trust in you when you make demands on me, when you try to lead me to places I do not want to go. Give me the strength to get up and follow you, especially when there is a cost. Keep me always mindful of the great price you have already paid for me, and that all I am able to offer is already a gift from you.
—Nick Courtney, SJPlease share the Good Word with your friends!