The “mysterious wrestler” declared that now Jacob would be known as Israel. But when Jacob asked the stranger for his name, the stranger did not reveal it, but simply blessed him. Jacob then realized that he had met God, Pope Francis explained.
He said: “Wrestling with God: a metaphor for prayer. At other times Jacob had shown himself capable of dialogue with God, of feeling Him as a friendly and close presence. But on that night, through a struggle that lasted a long time and which saw him almost succumb, the patriarch came out changed. He changed his name, changed his way of life and changed his personality: he came out changed.”
“For once he is no longer master of the situation -- his cunning is no longer necessary -- he is no longer the strategist and calculating man; God brings him back to his truth as a mortal who trembles and is afraid, because Jacob was afraid in the struggle.”
“For once Jacob has nothing else to present to God but his frailty and powerlessness, even his sins. And it is this Jacob who receives the blessing from God, with which he enters the promised land with a limp: vulnerable, and wounded, but with a new heart.”
Summing up the patriarch’s transformation, the pope said: “Jacob was a self-assured man before; he trusted in his own shrewdness. He was a man impermeable to grace, immune to mercy; he did not know what mercy was. ‘Here I am, I am in command!’ He did not think he needed mercy.”
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“But God saved what was lost. He made him understand that he was limited, that he was a sinner who needed mercy and saved him.”
The pope concluded his general audience with an appeal to end child labor. Noting that Friday, June 12, is the World Day Against Child Labor, an observance introduced by the UN’s International Labor Organization in 2002, he said that boys and girls who were forced to work were deprived of their childhoods.
“In the current health emergency situation, in several countries many children and young people are forced into jobs that are inappropriate for their age, to help their families in conditions of extreme poverty,” he said.
“In many cases these are forms of slavery and imprisonment, resulting in physical and psychological suffering.”
He continued: “I appeal to institutions to make every effort to protect minors, filling the economic and social gaps that underlie the distorted dynamic in which they are unfortunately involved.”
“Children are the future of the human family: it is up to all of us to foster their growth, health and serenity.”