Saturday, March 10, 2012

Saturday of the Second Week in Lent

Genesis 27:6-40 / Luke 15:11-32

In the fairy tale Sleeping Beauty, the heroine receives a series of blessings from the fairy godmothers who have been invited to her christening. However, a wicked fairy, angry at not having been invited and in no mood for charity, comes to the christening and, in place of a blessing, curses the infant, fating her to die upon her coming of age when she pierces her hand with a spindle. The one good fairy remaining, who had not yet given her blessing, despite the parents' entreaties, cannot simply undo what has been said. Beauty is doomed to a terrible fate by means of a spindle when she comes of age. However, her word has power as well, and she is able to clarify just what sort of death the infant will die, namely, the "death" of a century of sleep, to be broken by the kiss of a prince.

The story of Isaac's blessing of Jacob and Esau strikes us, at first reading, as belonging more to the realm of fairy tales than of inspired Scripture. The force of the story is rooted in the expectation that the patriarch Isaac has but one blessing to give, a blessing he means to give to his elder son Esau but which, through the cunning of his wife Rebecca, it his her son, Jacob, who fools Isaac and receives the coveted words from his father's mouth: God give thee of the dew of heaven and of the fatness of the earth, abundance of corn and wine. And let peoples serve thee and tribes worship thee: be thou lord of thy brethren, and let thy mother's children bow down before thee. Cursed be he that curseth thee, and let him that blesseth thee be filled with blessings. When Esau returns and both he and Isaac discover the trick that has been played upon both of them, none of Esau's entreaties can undo the word of the patriarch. What he has said must, like the words of the wicked fairy, come to pass: Thy brother came deceitfully, and got thy blessing. Even after a tearful appeal by Esau, the most Isaac can provide is a lesser blessing that still remains: In the fat of the earth and in the dew of heaven above shall thy blessing be. Nothing can altogether unsay what has been said.

This resemblance between the two stories is not, I think, a reason to reject the latter because it echoes the wisdom contained in the former. What the story of Esau and Jacob reminds us is that God does not do anything twice. When God offers us a new beginning, and most especially when he calls us to a new possibility of life in the Lord Jesus Christ, he does not do so simply by annulling what has happened. When God has offered us life in one way, and we have chosen to pass it by, the fact that we have an inexhaustible store of mercy, grace, and blessing in Jesus Christ does not means that the same terms, the same mercies, the same blessings and grace will come again our way. This is not because Jesus Christ is somehow petulant or stingy with the life and love he offers us. Rather, it is precisely because he takes our choices, and all of the events of the world he has made, including even the interventions of those agents of wickedness in our lives, the wicked fairies that plot our undoing, into account and grants them their due.

All the same, what the fairy tale recalls in a remote way and the story of Isaac's sons recalls in a shadowy and prophetic way, is nonetheless still true in the blood of Jesus Christ, namely, that there is always another blessing awaiting us. The blood of Jesus Christ is, for us, a reminder of the unending source of blessings, ever living and ever new, flowing from the side of the Savior. That we will need to face the consequences of our own and others' refusals of grace is part of living in a world broken by sin, but that the love of Jesus Christ always offers for us another way, a deeper and more profound way, to be conformed to his divine life, is just as certain. If we have been struck with a curse to die, by the power of the Cross, this need not be the end of us. In the merciful blessings of our God, even death itself has become for us the way to be awoken to new life by our Bridegroom and prince, our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 comment:

Chooch262 said...

Another fascinating meditation. Thank you!

Say, how many levels down in the dictionary entry do I need to go before understanding the meaning of the word 'specious' in the title of your blog?