Daily Reflection
July 8th, 2003
Mary Kuhlman
English Department
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Genesis 32:23-33
Psalm 17:1, 2-3, 6-7, 8, 15
Matthew 9:32-38

Today's readings from Genesis and from Matthew speak to me of that wonderful four-letter word "work."

The story of Jacob, a man with many people to work for (two wives, two maidservants and eleven children already!) has been depicted in art as "Jacob Wrestling with the Angel."  Today I see our translation says he wrestled with "some man," and another translation says "a man," and a third, "someone."  This "some man" may have been traditionally interpreted as an angel, but today I notice how "real-life" and physical the wrestling is:  They wrestle for a long time, and Jacob's hip is injured.

I'm used to seeing the verb "wrestle" in describing how we fight temptations and despair, grief and fear.  But today, as I read the story, I'm surprised by realizing that we must also wrestle with things that are basically OK, even good.  We wrestle with the expected problems in our job and the ordinary complications of our lives.  We wrestle with decisions of what things or procedures to use, and how to deal with people and situations.  Then we wrestle with the things, procedures, people, and situations.

Teachers, for example, have to "wrestle" with their knowledge of their subjects and their students, then "wrestle" with the decisions of goals, principles, content, texts, activities, and grades.  And every profession or job or life situation has similar "wrestling" to do.  In short, "wrestling" is just part of the WORK of living.  And sometimes we are injured, wearied, misunderstood -- those times are part of a work life too.

In today's Gospel, Jesus is the teacher and healer, doing His WORK.  People react with both amazement and misunderstanding.  Knowing how people must wrestle with what he has to teach them, Jesus has pity on this particular crowd of ordinary human beings.  They are, in our translation, "troubled and abandoned" and in another, "bewildered and dejected."  He assures us that "the harvest is abundant," but challenges us: "The laborers are few."  He gives his disciples some WORK to do right away:  to pray that God will provide "laborers for his harvest."

Today we may pray for all people who are seeking or "wrestling" with their vocations; may they see how their "wrestling" is labor for the harvest.  And for my own life, I pray that I may see the tiresome and the problematic -- even any really annoying people and really difficult tasks that come up in my day -- as just more chances for me to help in the real-life WORK of bringing in God's harvest.


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