The following blog was contributed by Adam Zoeller, a member of the theology department at Saint Xavier High School in Louisville, KY.
The translation of the Hebrew name Israel is ‘one who contends with human and divine beings.’ Although Jacob’s name change reinforces once again the importance of conversion in the Old Testament, I am challenged to recognize this story in a new context during this Lenten season. During the coronavirus pandemic, society in the United States of America along with other countries have been shut down to combat the spread of this disease. Forced isolation or exile provides the opportunity for deep contemplation in light of our relationship with God and neighbor. Thus, how have we changed or developed into a new creation, a new Israel?
“I am the Lord, your God, who brought you out of land of Eygpt, out of the house of slavery” (Exodus 20:2). Careful evaluation of our priorities leads to the self discovery of what we are truly enslaved by in our society. Perhaps false idols in regards to statues are not our vice, but the attachment to worldly possessions. The wandering in the wilderness by Moses and the Israelites as well as the Babylonian exile were challenging times for the people of God. Uncertainty reigned. The complete recognition and commitment to God above all else were paramount to returning to the land of promise. As we travel not outside in community, but instead journey into our “inner room” (Matthew 6:6), we are blessed with the challenge of discerning where our relationship with God is in our life. How are we contending with God? How are we Israel?
“Remember the Sabbath, keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8). The Sabbath is counter cultural and brings balance to our minds and hearts. The Sabbath affords a time of rest and renewal along with joy and hope. In sacred scripture, Christ Jesus reminds his disciples who the Sabbath was created for; therefore, taking this Mosaic teaching and providing a new meaning. How are we balancing our time? How are we developing into a new creation?
One of the Tools for Building a Domestic Church is to ‘talk freely about the presence of God in the joys and sorrows of your life.’ A slower pace in the home provides time to ask questions and seek deeper answers with your spouse and children about God’s presence during the pandemic in light of the heroes of our faith guiding us along the way. Reading stories such as Job and/or randomly choosing wisdom from Psalms of David and the Proverbs of Solomon are ways to strengthen the domestic church through scripture exegesis, reflection, discussion, and prayer. How are we contending with our knowledge and wisdom provided in scripture in order to become Israel for our spouse and children?
“But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’” (Luke 10:29). Watching Mass via YouTube this past weekend reminded me that the Church is not a building, but the People of God. How do we contend or interact with our neighbors during the social distancing mandate from our local and state officials? How do we serve the marginalized, the leper, the Samaritan? Saint Teresa of Calcutta once said, “that the poor we wish to serve are already on our doorstep.” Our journey into our ‘inner room’ to develop into a new Israel may begin with reconciling our relationships with our family (parents, siblings, etc) through a phone call or a letter during our journey through the desert. How are we contending with our neighbor?
About the Author
Adam P. Zoeller is a member of the theology department chair at Saint Xavier High School in Louisville, KY. He earned his B.A. in religious studies and B.A. in clinical psychology from Spalding University (Louisville, KY) and his M.Ed. in educational leadership from the University of Cincinnati (Cincinnati, OH). He holds a Master’s Catechist Certification from the Archdiocese of Louisville.
Adam has presented the following workshops for the National Catholic Educational Association:
Practice & the Game: Using Sports Language to Teach the USCCB Curriculum Framework (NCEA Webinar 2017)
Media Literacy & Scriptural Exegesis: Essential Skills for 21st Century Religious Educators, (NCEA Convention and Expo 2017)
From heart to missionary zeal: Using language and lessons from athletics to aid adolescent catechesis in the New Evangelization, (NCEA Convention and Expo 2018)
Framing Brain-Based Learning in High School Theology (NCEA Webinar 2019)
Adam has written the following reflections for NCEA Talk:
Paschal Mystery: Storytelling and Media Literacy (September 2016)
Personal Litany of the Saints (April 2017)
Motion Offense in Basketball. (November 2017)
Bully, Victim, and Bystander in light of the Woman Caught in Adultery (July 2018)
Searching for God in the MCU (September 2018)
The Way (truth and life) of the Cross: Reflecting on the road to Calvary through the temptations of Jesus Christ (March 2019)
Adam can be reached at email@example.com.