10 September, Friday — Better or Bitter?

Friday of Week 23 in Ordinary Time

1 Tim 1:1-2,12-14
Lk 6:3-42

“… the fully trained disciple will always be like his teacher.

In one way or another, we are all possessed by sin, evil, by this world, our obsessions, our addictions, our fears, and yes, even the devil himself. We struggle against fear, danger, peril, impurity, anger, greed, pride, revenge, unforgiveness, lies, immorality, injustice. We struggle to stay alive, to stay safe and to stay sane. The list is long. Frighteningly and discouragingly long.

Our spiritual life does not grow and strengthen if we only focus on the good that we have done. If we only compare our good deeds with one another, if we only count the number of good actions we have done, then we will never be able to see the areas where we are still, as yet, unredeemed. If we only do good to attract the applause and praise of others, where our only motivation to do good is to boost our own egos. If we only choose to see the wrongdoings of others and not our own. If we veil ourselves with lies about who we really are or ignoring the wrong that we see. If we are only concerned with our personal gains and choose to be indifferent and insensitive to the needs and cries for help of others. Then we will never surpass the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees.

Our spiritual life is fundamentally about this life-long struggle to expel these forces from within. It’s all very real … too real. It’s all very tiring…too tiring. But the question we should ask ourselves is this – what do these struggles do to us? What is the collateral damage we suffer — emotionally, psychologically, physically, spiritually? What will we look like when we come out at the other end? Do we come out of these struggles looking more like Jesus? Or more like the devil? Do we come out better or bitter? 

Jacob struggled all night with God. His was a literal fight to the finish. It was the desperate life and death struggle, not of the body but of the soul. It’s almost amusing to imagine what that actually looked like. How did God finally manage to overcome Jacob? With a chokeslam? Or a pile-driver? It was probably a brain-buster move that did Jacob in. Isn’t it insane that Jacob even thought he had a chance to win the fight? It is Almighty God he was fighting against. Did Jacob even stand a chance? Do we not fight against God all the time too?

Our struggles are not meant to crush, weaken or destroy us. They are simply meant to invite us to reflect on who we really are, to see ourselves in the mirror, so that we can finally see for ourselves where we need to change, and to transform. They are invitations to us for our own conversion. The struggle shows us exactly where we need to struggle, where the evil one has us in his chokehold. So that we can then allow God to apply a match-winning suplex move on the evil that clings so stubbornly to us. Only then, will evil and sin no longer triumph over us. Once and for all.

Jacob’s struggle with God was not meant to destroy, but to change and transform him. After that struggle, Jacob no longer struggled with God. Because after that struggle, he finally abandoned himself to God. Only then, did he realize he was fighting against Almighty God. And that Almighty God was not fighting against him, but fighting to save him. After the struggle, Jacob was finally and completely transformed. He was no longer Jacob.

He became Israel. The chosen one.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Justus Teo)

Prayer: Father, help us. For the times we feel so overwhelmed by our own frailty against sin and evil. When we feel so defeated by our helplessness. When we can no longer experience your love for us or believe in your sovereignty in our lives.

Thanksgiving: Father, thank you for the times you help us confront ourselves and truly see ourselves in the mirror. For never letting go of us until we finally succumb to you. For only then, you help us come to the realization of who we are. Your child whom you can never stop loving, who you can never stop trying to save, who you can never let go of.


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