This morning’s readings are about struggle: internal and external struggle. The Genesis story (GN 32:23-33) of Jacob wrestling with what first appeared to be a human, then an angel and, in the end, the one of whom Jacob said, “I have seen God face to face” is a familiar one. Jacob struggles all night with God and in the end is blessed with a new name that foretells his destiny; he was called Israel. The story is told as an external wrestling match but is most likely significant of the struggle that is often part of our life with God. If we are truthful, we all probably have some difficulty living in this world and wondering why God allows all the suffering and need – our own and/or that of the wider world.
In today’s gospel (MT 9:32-38) even Jesus seems to be overwhelmed a bit. He’s going from place to place, “to all the towns and villages, proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom and curing every disease and illness…moved with pity for the crowds” who seem so troubled and abandoned. I can just picture him looking around at all there is to do for so many people and wondering how he can possibly manage to change the world for the better – wrestling with God about the difficulty of the task. I see him slumping down – probably on a rock – covering his face with his hands and then looking up to say to his disciples, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out more laborers for his harvest.”
Wrestling (I learned as a high school teacher attending wrestling matches) isn’t just about rolling around on the floor trying to pin your opponent. It is a well-developed skill. I think we’re being asked to continue wrestling with the big questions in order to stay on track toward the manifestation of the Kingdom of God. We need to continue to ask God’s blessing for the work of transformation – of ourselves and the world – and get about developing our muscles for the long haul.