Pope Francis described this event as a metaphor for prayer in a Papal address given on June 8, 2020: “that night, through a lengthy struggle that nearly makes him succumb, the patriarch emerges changed. A change of name, a change in his way of life and a personality change: he comes out of it a changed man. For once he is no longer master of the situation — his cunning is no use to him — he is no longer a strategic and calculating man. God returns him to his truth as a mortal man who trembles and fears, because in the struggle, Jacob was afraid. For once Jacob has only his frailty and powerlessness, and also his sins, to present to God. And it is this Jacob who receives God’s blessing, with which he limps into the promised land: vulnerable and wounded, but with a new heart.”
Today’s Gospel passage relates that Jesus “went around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom, and curing every disease and illness” (Matthew 9:35). Most poignantly, Matthew writes:
“At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest’” (Matthew 9:36-38).
We cannot follow our Higher Power and be transformed if we do not embrace our vulnerability, woundedness, and sinfulness like Jacob. This is precisely the means by which we come into an authentic relationship with Christ and receive the blessings of freedom, a new name, and a new heart. Moreover, it is through our vulnerability, woundedness, and sinfulness that we become credible and effective guides—laborers sent out to the harvest—for others seeking hope and freedom from addiction.
As the AA Responsibility statement reads: “When anyone, anywhere, reaches out for help, I want the hand of AA always to be there. And for that: I am responsible.” Our only qualification is our desire to get well and to love God and neighbor. So, let us work the steps, remain constant in prayer, and be humble and hospitable in fellowship and sponsorship, and the Holy Spirit will do the rest. Saint Benedict, pray for us.
- Saint Benedict wrote in his Rule that humility requires 12 steps: fear of God, self-denial, obedience, perseverance, repentance, serenity, self-abasement, prudence, silence, dignity, discretion, and reverence. Consider and describe how Saint Benedict’s 12 steps compare to your own 12-step recovery.
- How does Jacob’s deception of his brother Esau and subsequent redemption after wrestling with God in prayer compare to your experience of surrendering to your Higher Power, of undertaking a fearless moral inventory, and making and living amends with those you have harmed?
Daily Mass Readings
First Reading: Genesis 32:23-33
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 17:1b, 2-3, 6-7ab, 8b and 15
Gospel: Matthew 9:32-28
Reflection by Pete S.