Psalm 17:1, 2-3,
6-7, 8, 15
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.