What a dream!
Ever had a dream that God blesses you and your family? I don’t know that many of us do.
Catechists usually cover the OT story of Jacobs Ladder in 6th grade. Jacob comes upon a shrine in his travels and uses one of the stones as a pillow. I always find this interesting because I have never chosen a stone for a pillow when camping. Wouldn’t dream of it! No pun intended! But I always wondered if Jacob was searching. What if he thought this is holy ground and he could get closer to God there? Maybe he thought he would find peace there and safety at this shrine. Would he choose a stone to sleep on because it was blessed? But I soon found out that he had no clue… (I can relate.)
So maybe it was just a flat smooth stone good for a pillow and better than the ground! Scripture doesn’t say if it is, but this stone is the foundation of this God-revealing story. God knows the yearnings of Jacob’s heart.
I imagine Jacob sitting at the feet of his father listening to all the stories of God speaking to Abraham and the blessings of many descendants thinking, “That can’t happen to me.” Jacob had taken the blessing from his father with trickery and now what? His brother, Esau hated him and probably wanted him dead. Why would God allow this to happen? From Abraham to Isaac, God had given them a great responsibility. Abraham was the father of all nations, Isaac was saved by God probably for a great purpose. God allows nothing that is not for our greater good.
It is also interesting to me that God appears at night. Jacob gets to the shrine as the sun goes down. In Genesis, God walks through the garden with the evening breeze. Coincidence? God brings comfort and reassurance. Darkness and then light. This is usually the time when we are most afraid and uncertain.
Jacob had the dream of a ladder (actually “ladder” translates to a dirt ramp or stairway that could be seen at a temple). God’s messengers, the angels, are going up and down. God speaks to Jacob reminding him of His promises to Abraham and Isaac and renews this covenant with Jacob. God tells him that he will have many descendants. What an awesome responsibility! He carries the weight of the world and his people. God promised again that He will be with Jacob!
Jacob wakes up (hello) and only then realizes that this truly is a sacred place. He says, “The Lord is here and I didn’t even know it! God lives here! This is the gateway to heaven!” Revelation.
To set the stage, Jacob was a plain man and dwelt in tents. His brother, Esau, was a skillful hunter, and I imagine got all the glory. Jacob had left home. Esau had married without the blessing. Mom encourages Jacob to trick his father into getting the blessing that was to go to Esau. Esau now hates him! Things are not looking too good. Isaac sent Jacob away to find a wife and most likely to protect him. God allowed all of this to happen. It is often hard to understand but God knows what he is doing; he always has a plan!
So Jacob was obedient to his father, gets a wife and then goes on his journey and finds himself at the shrine. After his revelation, he changes the name of this sacred place to Bethel, meaning House of God. Sound familiar? Bethlehem – House of Bread. He sets this stone as a memorial telling us to remember what happened here! This was a sign of God’s message and presence. Jacob says that God is truly here.
Jacob leaves this place a changed man in mind and heart. He changes the name of this place with a memorial stone so that all will know the glory of God and what He had done. God is faithful. Jacob was not alone. He makes a covenant and promises that if God stays with him and takes care of him, he will let God lead him.
You too, are given this sacred place right where you are. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 tells us to pass it on and teach our children about God. It tells us to put God’s words as a sign on our foreheads and on the doors of our home so we don’t forget that God lives here right in our houses and wherever we go. The Kingdom of God is at hand.
Jesus refers to Jacob’s ladder in the book of John:
And he said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see the sky opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
The angels are mentioned in the 1st Eucharistic prayer:
In humble prayer, we ask you almighty God, command that these gifts be borne by the hands of your holy Angel to your altar on high in the sight of your divine majesty, so that all of us, through this participation at the altar receive the most holy Body and Blood of your Son, may be filled with every grace and heavenly blessing.
At every Mass, heaven and earth meet at the altar with the host of angels. These divine messengers bring our prayers and humble offerings to the altar as we ask God to transform them along with ourselves.
At every Mass, in communion with the saints, we unite ourselves with Christ and become new. We rest our heads on the Cornerstone.
Next time you go to Mass, remember that you are not alone. Heaven is there with the angels and saints.
You are then fortified for the journey by the living bread you receive.
Pace e bone!