I had a profound moment of truth-finding a few years ago when I was writing lesson plan for my Old Testament class on the Book of Genesis. We were discussing the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I have always been curious about the angelic tussle in Genesis 22-32.
Until I read Genesis 33:1-11, I never realized the significance of Jacob’s bout with the unnamed angel. Let me provide a little context of the situation between the two brothers leading up to chapter 33. Esau being the elder brother was supposed to inherit the firstborn blessing from his father Isaac. However, his mother Rebecca favored the younger son Jacob. Through a bit of chicanery Jacob attained the blessing from Isaac and a rift divided the brothers for most of their lives.
What’s in a Name?
The name “Jacob” actually means supplanter in reference to Genesis 27:36. This poses a dilemma for those that claim Jacob as a rightful patriarch of the Jewish faith. It is by way of Jacob’s struggle with the angel and the angel’s inability to defeat Jacob whereby a conversion takes place. In Genesis 32:28, the angel states, “You name shall no more be called Jacob, but Israel for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.”
The immediate next encounter with Esau a reconciliation occurs. Their exchange is as follows,
8Then Esau asked, “What did you intend with all those herds that I encountered?” Jacob answered, “It was to gain my lord’s favor.”9Esau replied, “I have plenty; my brother, you should keep what is yours.”10“No, I beg you!” said Jacob. “If you will do me the favor, accept this gift from me, since to see your face is for me like seeing the face of God—and you have received me so kindly. 11Accept the gift I have brought you. For God has been generous toward me, and I have an abundance.” Since he urged him strongly, Esau accepted (Genesis 33:8-11).
Allegorically, Jacob’s wrestling match with the angel may be viewed as a foreshadowing of the sacrament of Confession. Anytime a name change occurs in the Bible a conversion takes place. One of the more notable instances is in the Acts of the Apostles where Saul encounters Christ and becomes Paul.
I urge you to have a wrestling moment with God. Let Him work in you and change you from a “Jacob” or “Saul” and transform you to an “Israel” or “Paul”. Practical tips during this Lenten season to grow in holiness may be to read the Scriptures and go to Confession. Let us journey together as we grow in holiness.
Do you want to receive more interesting, resourceful, authentic Catholic content like this article?
Become an email subscriber (enter your email address in the Subscribe to Blog Via Email box and hit the Subscribe button. It’s that easy! Soon you will be receiving bible brain boosts in your inbox to build up your faith.
Thank you for reading and hope you have a blessed day!
According to the ancient Greek philosopher Democritus, “Raising children is an uncertain thing; success is reached only after a life of battle and worry.” Written over 2,000 years ago, that advice remains ever relevant and new. Parenting feels like a daily battle. Frustrations brew, chaos ensues, and bedtime routine feels like WWIII.
More often than not, my anger gets the best of me. Fatherhood takes a lot of work. Some days I make excuses to not put in the work. Failure and faux pas have became habit. I desire a reset. A new beginning. I want to do better. Become something better. Become someone better for me kids.
Thankfully, I don’t have to look [or travel] that far for the remedy.
The Sacrament of Confession provides Catholics an opportunity to be forgiven and restore one’s relationship with God and their neighbor. St. Isidore of Seville wrote, “Confession heals, confession justifies, confession grants pardon of sin, all hope consists in confession; in confession there is a chance for mercy.”
This school year my oldest child receives his First Confession and Eucharist. Next week he will receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. My wife and I have been going through the religious education lessons to prepare him for an understanding and proper disposition to receive the sacrament of healing. In teaching him the basics about this sacrament, I too, actually learned something about Confession.
The Simpler Is Better
Albert Einstein famously quipped, “If you can’t explain it to a six–year–old, you don’t understand it yourself.” It definitely takes a talent to be able to articulate the complexities of the Catholic faith to young minds. This is something I struggle with a bit, but I am getting better. I am used to writing about theology or discussing the faith with adults are the audience.
Less is more. I never actually understand that phrase until after going through these lessons with my son. Sometimes discussion about the sacraments can get bogged down with technical jargon or bias. Essentially the main questions kids and new converts to the faith wonder include:
What are sacraments?
Why are sacraments important?
How do I receive the sacraments
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 1131, “The sacraments are efficacious [effective] signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us.” To put it is more basic terms, a sacrament is a visible sign of God’s invisible grace. By receiving the sacraments we grow closer to God.
A Brief History of Sin and Salvation
Adam and Eve disobeyed God. This disobedience caused sin to enter into the world. Sin separates us from God. God sent His only Son Jesus to restore that relationship through his death on the Cross. Before Jesus’ Ascension he promised to send the Holy Spirit to guide the Apostles. On Pentecost the Holy Spirit met the Apostles and gave them the ability to preach the Gospel.
The Apostles, the first bishops, ordained their successors. This Apostolic succession continued throughout history. Jesus gave Peter and the rest of the Apostles the authority to forgive sins (see John 20:1-23) and consecrate the Eucharist. Through the Sacrament of Holy Orders, the successors of the Apostles (bishops) ordain men as priests. Jesus Christ works through those men in the Sacraments of Confession and Eucharist.
We explained to our son that Jesus is working through the priest. When he will confess his sins to our priest it will actually be Jesus that he will be talking to and it will be Jesus who forgives sins. The priest is an instrument by which God works through.
Another lesson I [re]learned in preparing my son for the Sacrament of Confession, is that everyone is in need of God’s mercy. “Even the pope goes to confession!” I told my eight-year-old. I went on to tell him about Saint Pope John XXII who received that sacrament daily.
Although the sacrament of Baptism cleanses us from original sin, humans still have the ability to freely choose to love or to not love God. Choosing to not love God or others results in sin or separation. As a father, I am definitely reminded of my need for forgiveness. Patience does not come naturally. It is a virtue tested daily, hourly, and sometimes every minute in the Chicoine household.
Being able to tell Jesus through the priest of my failures as a parent, husband, friend, worker, and neighbor is an incredible gift. Even more incredible is God’s mercy of absolving me from my past sins.
Reaping the Fruit of Our Sacramental Marriage
The third thing I learned about the Catholic faith while teaching my son about Confession is that the Holy Spirit delays certain gifts and gives them at key times in our life. My wife and I received the Sacrament of Matrimony in 2010. We took [and still take] our faith seriously. The primary purpose of marriage is to help the spouses grow in holiness.
According to the Catechism paragraph 1661,
The sacrament of Matrimony signifies the union of Christ and the Church. It gives spouses the grace to love each other with the love with which Christ has loved his Church; the grace of the sacrament thus perfects the human love of the spouses, strengthens their indissoluble unity, and sanctifies them on the way to eternal life (cf. Council of Trent: DS 1799).
In my post Toddlers: An Adorable Trace of the Trinity I wrote, “A fruit of the sacrament of marriage is children…I think of my children as the best gift that God has given me personally to grow in virtue daily.” Kids test your love. They give you opportunities to grow in understanding, patience, kindness, generosity, forgiveness, and gratitude to name just a few virtues. Educating our children about the faith provides my wife and I chances to rekindle our love for the Church and Christ.
If you are experiencing doubt, impatience, anger, resentment, worry, or other vices I strongly encourage you to examine your conscience and ask God for forgiveness in the Sacrament of Confession. Build up the Body of Christ and seek God’s mercy!
On April 30th, 2000 Pope John Paul II officially designated the second Sunday of Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday. The designation was in celebration of the canonization of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska– the Polish nun who received the devotion from Jesus! My wife’s Confirmation saint is St. Maria Faustina and in recent years of our marriage I have been more familiar with her teaching by reading the Polish nun’s diary. While I could write for pages about the joys of this feast, I will limit myself to three reasons for why I am grateful for Divine Mercy Sunday.
Judgment + _____________= Love
I bet you can’t guess blank to fill out the equation. Let me give you a clue: the word is in the title of today’s post. You guessed it– mercy! The Church’s renewed focus on Divine Mercy to start the new millennium gave me a renewed focus as well. I grew up usually thinking about the power of God and His ability to judge us. For whatever reason I viewed God more as a judge and less like a merciful Father. Divine Mercy Sunday is a gift that helps remind me that God, though a judge, is a merciful judge and will give me many chances to correct the mistakes I make.
The reading associated with this Sunday’s Mercy Sunday comes from John 20:19-31. Jesus’ first words to his apostles are, “Peace be with you” (John 20:19). That is one of the effects of divine mercy. In a world that is constantly pulling me each direction, it is nice to listen Christ’s words. A second major point from today’s gospel reading is the institution of the sacrament of Confession. Jesus confers this sacrament of healing to his apostles when he say, “”Peace be with you [a second time]. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained'” (John 20:21-23). Time and time again Jesus reminds us of God’s mercy. In the 20th century, Jesus gave St. Faustina this same message. She states in her diary,
“’Proclaim that mercy is the greatest attribute of God. All the works of My hands are crowned with mercy.’” (No. 301)
Along with the fruit of the sacrament of Confession, Divine Mercy Sunday infuses life into my marriage. As I stated before, my wife’s Confirmation saint is St. Faustina. It was through the graces received through praying the chaplet of Divine Mercy that quelled any doubt in her mind of joining the Catholic Church. Additionally, I am thankful for Divine Mercy Sunday because this feast day is a great reminder of the amazing mercy my wife shows to me on a daily basis! When I get short or angry at a home situation, my wife is always willing to bestow mercy by the end of the day. I would like to think that I too am making progress– due in large part to St. Faustina and my wife’s intercession– but I have great strides to go still.
If you have never heard of St. Maria Faustina, I urge you to check out her diary from a local library, a friend, or your parish. For those pinched for time, I recommend simply printing off a small list of quotes from her about Divine Mercy and read them a few minutes a day during this Easter Season. I close with Jesus’ words [revealed to St. Faustina], “The prayer of a humble and loving soul disarms the anger of My Father and draws down an ocean of blessings” (Diary of Maria Faustina No. 320). Thank God for the gift of Divine Mercy Sunday!
Call to Action— Learn the Chaplet of Divine Mercy!
Below is a simple diagram of how to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. My family and I prefer to pray it via singing check out this YouTube video on our favorite version!