As we read at Holy Mass today, young Jacob made his way northeast to find a wife from among his own kin. On the way, he dreamt of the ladder or staircase between heaven and earth. The Lord promised Jacob many descendants. He promised the land to Jacob’s descendants. And He promised to accompany Jacob always.
Sounds pretty awesome. Then Jacob went on to live his awesome life, in which…
He worked seven years indentured servitude for the privilege of marrying the woman with whom he had fallen in love, only to have his father-in-law pull a fast one on him. Jacob then had to work a second seven-year term. After that, and six more years hard labor for good measure, Jacob’s father-in-law tried to cheat Jacob out of any profit for his twenty years of work.
Then Jacob returned to the land of his brother Esau, who Jacob rightly feared would try to kill him.
Then a neighbor raped one of Jacob’s daughters. Jacob’s sons took revenge by slaughtering all the men among the rapists’ kin. So Jacob, fearing a reprisal, once again had flee for his life.
Jacob had a favorite son. Right. Joseph. Joseph’s brothers hated him and sold him into slavery. Jacob never laid eyes on his most-beloved son again, until shortly before his own death.
Pretty awesome life. If by ‘awesome,’ we mean: fearful, toilsome, painful, and relentlessly difficult.
Jacob’s dream of the stairway to heaven foreshadowed Jesus’ revelation about Himself. That angels would ascend and descend on the Son of Man.
We could make no sense whatsoever out of Jacob’s endless travails as God’s “blessing,” if we didn’t know about the Passion of the Christ. But, like Jacob His ancestor, Jesus’ suffered bitterly in this world. The most innocent and pure human pilgrim ever to walk the earth suffered the most.
So Scripture teaches us, so that we can learn early, what life will teach us in the end anyway: Our hope for lasting happiness lies not in this world, but in the next.