As we make our way through the Book of Genesis, we have now encountered Jacob, one of the big three who was given the name Israel by God. The Israelites did not speak the name of God; as a result God is often referred to as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the Hebrew Scriptures.
Like his father and grandfather before him, Jacob is one of the heroes of the Hebrew Scriptures. As is often the case with heroes, a defining moment changes his life forever. Just as the superheroes of comic book fame have a moment in their personal history, Jacob’s defining moment happens when he wrestles with God throughout a night. At dawn, he takes his family and goes on to meet his brother Esau.
Jacob and his descendants become the nation of Israel. The change of his name is indicative of a much deeper change in Jacob. Jacob claims to have seen God and lived to tell the fate. The same thing happened to Abram who was given the new name of Abraham after his encounter with God.
We too have an origin story as members of God’s household. Our new identity is given to us at baptism when we receive the name “Christian.” We die to our old self and become a new creation, beginning a life long journey of faith. This new identity is not just a symbolic change but is meant to be lived out in service of the Gospel.
In the Gospel, Jesus prepares his disciples for their change of identity which will be related in the Gospels of the next few days. Today we are told that Jesus visited all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the Gospel of God’s Reign. He cured every disease and illness of those who were brought to him. The harvest awaits as we continue to bring the message of the Gospel to all. As we are fed in the Eucharist today, we are asked to embrace this new identity as followers of Jesus.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator