Monday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time
In order to better appreciate the importance of Jacob’s dream in today’s first reading (Gen 28:10-22a), we may recall its place in the history of salvation (see http://www.magisspirituality.org/ignatian_reflection/17-03-11/). After Adam and Eve chose to chase after their own imagined “god-like” life (which they imagined to be a “life” in which they could know good and evil, instead of simply the good), God sought to invite humankind back to the simplicity and fullness of the life of love (alone) that is God’s own life and Man’s true life. God sought allies from within the human family through whom God could work to reveal “from within” the reality of this life to all nations. First among these stands Abraham, from whom God promised to fashion a people “more numerous than the stars in the sky… through whom all peoples will be blessed” (Gen 22:17-18). This promise passes to Abraham and Sarah’s only son Issac (Gen 22:2), through whom God tests Abraham, who does not withhold his son from God (Gen 22:12). For his part, Issac fathers Jacob, who inherits the covenant with God as his birthright through a deception that challenges our moral sensibilities (Gen 27). The events that we hear about in today’s reading from Genesis take place shortly after Jacob has tricked his father Issac, as he is fleeing his brother Esau.
Whatever one may think of Jacob at this point (read Gen 25 and 27 for context), he is the one who has inherited God’s promise, and that promise is more important than Jacob’s worthiness: indeed, even if he were to appear more “just” in our eyes, he could never merit the awesome gift and responsibility of God’s promise. Jacob’s worthiness for this task is primarily God’s concern and not ours. And it is clear that God intends to make Jacob task-worthy to an extent that neither he nor we can fully grasp. Jacob does not find the Lord through his own devices, but rather, the Lord comes to Jacob in a dream in which Jacob sees a stairway between heaven and earth and God’s messengers moving between heaven and earth on that stairway. Jacob actually identifies the stairway with a physical place, which he names “Bethel,” but when seen through the arc of salvation history, it is clear that the “gateway to heaven” where “God abides” (Gen 28:17) is not to be sought in some hidden Bethel that an archeologist may stumble upon by chance, following Jacob’s footsteps. No. The true physical location that is the “gate” between heaven and earth is the body of Jesus Christ (John 10:7).
We should not forget, however, that Jesus does not magically appear some Christmas day. Jesus comes from “Jacob’s loins;” he is, as man, a child of the covenant that God makes with Man through Abraham, Issac, and Jacob. The “gateway” between heaven and earth is the flesh of Jesus Christ, but the stairway through which this gateway passes includes the generations of Abraham, Issac, Jacob, and many others. It is from this flesh that the flesh of Jesus Christ will come. The human history of this people is that history which Christ will receive as his own at his incarnation through his mother Mary, and through his eternal Father, who prepares this people for his Son through working of the Holy Spirit. Let us pay attention, then, to God’s relationship to this man Jacob who will become, as we will hear tomorrow, Israel, the man through whose seed all nations will be blessed.