The First Reading today made me wonder if Jacob would ever have succeeded without his deception. The expression when pigs fly comes to mind about the chances of him getting his father’s blessing as the second son. As the reading shows, Isaac meant to bless his first-born in preparation for taking over at his death. Jacob, with the cunning of Rebekah, usurps that birthright. The two of them fool poor Isaac but they never fool God.
Jacob blatantly lies twice to his father and despite his father’s doubts, Isaac proceeds to bless him. Similar to a well-known Gospel story, Jacob betrays his father even with a kiss. Ah ambition! Peoples will serve him and nations bow down before this deceiver. He even has the power to bless and to curse. He will be lord over his brothers, including the one from whom he has stolen everything. He must have been in great desolation when he agreed with Rebekah to carry out this plan. It is hard to believe that God will use this broken vessel but he does.
In juxtaposition on this Feast Day, we have St. Elizabeth of Portugal who marries at age 12 the King of Portugal. From her birth, she is a peacemaker, creating reconciliation between her father and grandfather. She seeks out the poor and the sick and continues to bring peace during rebellious times. After her husband dies, she gives up everything and joins the Poor Clares. Her last major act in life is to bring peace between two warring monarchs.
In the end, God uses both these people for his glory. Jacob goes on to become the father of the 12 tribes and is renamed Israel. God still moves in this man whose heart was ambitious and selfish. The story is complicated and reading it in its entirety reveals jealousy, anger, fear, and hopelessness. Esau’s people had turned away from God and were worshiping other idols. Jacob still followed the same God as his father. His story is much more complicated than Elizabeth’s but in the end, he does find redemption.
I wonder if Jacob ever looked back on his deathbed and saw the growth in his human spirit. The Examen helps us to keep a watch on our character and behaviour. Each night, when reviewing the day, we can see where we acted in accordance with God’s will or when we failed–where we saw God and when we missed the Creator. We get better with decision-making when we seek God before acting. Some of us, like Elizabeth, come to it more easily than others like Jacob. Where might you fall on the continuum?
What are your ambitions in life? What are you willing to do to make them happen? What values guide you in your decision-making?