When Isaac was old and his eyes were dim so that he could not see, he called his elder son Esau and said to him, “My son”; and he answered, “Here I am.” He said, “See, I am old; I do not know the day of my death. Now then, take your weapons, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field, and hunt game for me. Then prepare for me savory food, such as I like, and bring it to me to eat, so that I may bless you before I die.” Now Rebekah was listening when Isaac spoke to his son Esau. So Esau went to the field to hunt for game and bring it.
Rebekah took the best garments of her elder son Esau, which were with her in the house, and put them on her younger son Jacob; and she put the skins of the kids on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck. Then she handed the savory food, and the bread that she had prepared, to her son Jacob.
So he went in to his father, and said, “My father”; and he said, “Here I am; who are you, my son?” Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your firstborn. I have done as you told me; now sit up and eat of my game, so that you may bless me.” But Isaac said to his son, “How is it that you have found it so quickly, my son?” He answered, “Because the Lord your God granted me success.” Then Isaac said to Jacob, “Come near, that I may feel you, my son, to know whether you are really my son Esau or not.”
So Jacob went up to his father Isaac, who felt him and said, “The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” He did not recognize him, because his hands were hairy like his brother Esau’s hands; so he blessed him. He said, “Are you really my son Esau?” He answered, “I am.” Then he said, “Bring it to me, that I may eat of my son’s game and bless you.” So he brought it to him, and he ate; and he brought him wine, and he drank.
Then his father Isaac said to him, “Come near and kiss me, my son.” So he came near and kissed him; and he smelled the smell of his garments, and blessed him, and said, “Ah, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field that the Lord has blessed. May God give you of the dew of heaven, and of the fatness of the earth, and plenty of grain and wine. Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be everyone who curses you, and blessed be everyone who blesses you!”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
Along with the great stories of Noah in the flood, Daniel in the furnace and Jonah in the whale, Isaac’s Blessing of Jacob is among the most memorable in the Hebrew Scripture. It is a wonderful and even whimsical story that invokes all of our senses—even smell, touch and taste. Furthermore, the dressing in animal hides and sibling rivalry might resonate with that child which remains a part of us, if only in memory.
Does the story suggest trickery should win the day or that ends can justify deceiving the deceive-able? Perhaps, but what struck me today is that God works through surprises. Sometimes what initially looks unfortunate can turn out well. With hindsight, isn’t this how it often works?
Before their assassinations, the Jesuit martyrs in El Salvador frequently shared their experience of discovering their truest mission only when they came into contact with the poor and suffering. While they initially came from Spain to Central America to help establish a university, they each report that their real mission was gradually and often surprisingly revealed to them through their pastoral encounters with those who were the oppressed.
Good News took on a new power when seen from the perspective of those who had been dealt an unfortunate hand. They approached the poor to render service but came away with the realization that they were the ones served. In this way, our God of surprises continues to unfold salvation history.
-John Sealey is the provincial assistant for social and international ministries for the Chicago-Detroit and Wisconsin Jesuit provinces.
Lord, it can be difficult to abandon ourselves to you with complete trust, allowing the Holy Spirit to be the soul and guide of our lives. We fear that you may force us to strike out on new paths and leave behind our all too narrow, closed and selfish horizons. Lord, increase our faith so we really believe that you want to bring us to a fulfillment that gives true joy and true serenity. Let us dare to be open to your surprises, especially when we anticipate a day filled with the humdrum of everyday life.
—Prayer is based on Pope Francis’ Sermon, May 19, 2013Please share the Good Word with your friends!