sexta-feira, 11 de setembro de 2015


The man asked him,
“What is your name?”
“Jacob,” he answered.
Then the man said,
“Your name will no longer be Jacob,
but Israel,
because you have struggled with God
and with humans and have overcome.”

Genesis 32:27-28 (read 32:23-33) – NIV

The world of Jacob was closing in around him. He had nowhere to flee. Behind him was his angry father-in-law who had severed relations with him because of the theft of cattle, and approaching in front of him, accompanied by armed guards, was his brother who had sworn to kill him because of the theft of his birthright. The darkness of night had fallen and he was alone. Only a miracle could save him.

There appeared a mysterious opponent in the night who wrestled with Jacob until dawn. The man could not defeat him but dislocated his thigh. At the end of the struggle Jacob whose name means “Thief” was given a new name, “Israel”, which means he who has “struggled with God and with humans and has overcome”, but he would be lame and would limp for the rest of his life.

The experience of the fight marked him deeply. His life took on a new dimension. He was spared of death and became reconciled with his brother. He stopped cheating others and living at their cost. Even though he received a new name, Israel, he did not lose the name, Jacob. He continued to be shrewd and defend his interests successfully, but without harming others. Jacob was not an example of virtue. His great contribution in the divine plan was to father Joseph of Egypt. The character of Joseph made up for the lack of virtue of Jacob.

The Bible portrays its characters faithfully, without makeup and leaves the "warts" showing. Some of the "heroes" of faith in the Bible were crooked. The conclusion is that even without great moral or spiritual qualifications, God can use anyone as his instrument. The "chosen" were no better than their contemporaries.

We like makeup, to paint our history rose colored and idolize our spiritual heroes, our movements and religious institutions. We blind our eyes so as to not see our inconsistencies, our idolatry, our self-interest and the biases of our spirituality. We create a false sense of spiritual and moral superiority. We justify intolerance in the name of zeal for the things of God. We lose sight of the depth of grace and of divine mercy.

Only after an intense struggle, Jacob was able to confess his true name: Jacob - Thief. We are Jacobs and Jacob is us. Like Jacob, our greatest difficulty is to confess our name, that is, who we really are. We want to be good and project a good image. External and internal pressures lead us to reject the negative side of our being. We even deny its existence. We project our own faults on others and live a life of illusory goodness. We continue with our conflicts. We just transfer our conflicts from the secular world to the church.

Even with our self-deception and contradictions, God does not abandon us. This is the true Good News of the Gospel - He loved Jacob, and loves all the "Jacobs" in the world. Knowing that Jacob is us, we, too, can love the other "Jacobs" around us.


After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”

But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

The man asked him, “What is your name?”

“Jacob,” he answered.

Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”

Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”

But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.

So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”

The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip. Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip, because the socket of Jacob’s hip was touched near the tendon.

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