A talk by Fr. Joseph Edattu, VC based on Genesis 28:10.
This verse is about the Old Testament patriarch Jacob. He is a man of deceit. He is a man of deceit because he cheated his father and his brother. He was busy cheating others, so he is a man of deceit. Jacob cheated his brother Esau and then somehow managed to collect the blessings from his father, though illegal – the blessing is valid. He received the blessing. You can see the blessing follows but, at the same time, a sinful character, a sinful nature follows him. So, always remember God’s grace will be according to one’s nature.
One’s Character is Forever
A saint is made according to one’s nature. Man’s basic
nature will not be changed even if he stops committing sin. Any person, when he
is changed or converted, his basic character will be forever. All the sinful
nature will be removed but the basic nature will be there once and for all. If
you look into the life of all the saints, all the saints are different. Nobody
is exactly like Jesus. They all follow Jesus with their character, with their
basic nature that God has given them from birth. It will never be changed—the basic character or nature. But
anything that is sinful in nature should be changed and will be changed. This
is something that we need to remember. Just because somebody is converted
doesn’t mean they should be exactly like someone else, exactly like Jesus, or
exactly like some saints. No.
One’s Character is a Gift
Each of us have our own identity, individual capacity,
individual nature, that God has given us as a gift. According to this nature,
God gives grace. With this grace, we defeat sin, defeat evil and we grow in
holiness. For example, some saints are very introverts while others are
extroverts. Some saints are very active while others always kept quiet and didn’t
talk to anyone. Some saints were in the wilderness always meditating while others
in the marketplace always active. Each saint is individually different. Their
nature is different.
One’s Character is Unique
Saint John Mary Vianney and Saint Padre Pio, both are the
saints of confession. They would sit for hours and hours in the confessional.
Saint John Mary Vianney was a parish priest and would listen for hours to
confessions. He was always in prayer and at the same time, very compassionate
and merciful. Saint Padre Pio was also full of holiness, but he was very strict
in the confessional. He had chased people out of the confessional when they
were not coming with repentance. He was very tough with the people and used to
get angry with those who came without repentance but deceit in confession. So,
the saints had different characters. Another example is Saint Dominic Savio and
Saint John Bosco. Saint Dominic Savio was always in prayer, always in the
chapel, always reciting the Holy Rosary. But his spiritual father, Saint John
Bosco, was hardly found in the chapel or in prayer. He was always among the
care of them and speaking to them about Jesus. He was busy with the people of
God, the poor people, the youngsters. He was always actively involved with them
but hardly found in prayer in the chapel.
One’s Character, Through Grace, Can Make One a Saint
There are different characters, different nature for every
human being. According to one’s
nature, God gives grace, and one becomes a saint. We cannot say,“if you want to be a saint, you should
be like this person.” We
cannot say that because each individual has his/her own nature and character.
But when grace comes, you will be able to overcome the sinful character, sinful
nature. Although we have our personal nature, everything sinful in it must be
cleansed. So, one can be an introvert—one
who is always silent, always in prayer and wants to grow spiritually like this.
While another person can be very charismatic—one who likes prayers but through praise and worship, and
not meditation. So, this person who wants to be in silent prayer cannot accuse
the one who wants to have loud praise and worship because that’s his way of
connecting to God. Each one has his or her own way of connecting to God. We
cannot blame or accuse anybody saying, “this is the only method of prayer,” “this is the only way you should
connect to God,” “this is
the only acceptable prayer.”
We cannot say that because every individual is unique. God gives grace to each
individual according to their nature and character. That’s why we have so many
varieties of saints in the Catholic Church. Each one is different from another.
Yes, there are so many similarities but each one is individual and different
from each other.
In Genesis 28:10, we see Jacob entirely different from
Abraham. Abraham always had a good character, always just, always prayerful,
always holy. He was ready to sacrifice his own son in obedience to God. Isaac,
too. But Jacob was not like that. Jacob had his own weaknesses. His character
was deceitful, but God was purifying him. His deceitful character was purified.
But his basic character—his
partiality and all those things was there all throughout his life. In his older
days, he was showing partiality to Joseph, though Joseph had so many brothers.
He gave special love, special care for his son, Joseph. The same care was not
given to his elders. Therefore, we should stop accusing or blaming anyone but
at the same time, we must make sure our nature or character must be purified.
God, anyway, He will purify us.
Our character must be formed, tamed, purified
Let’s reflect on Abraham. He had a very good life, a happy
life. He had some of those ‘low
moments while he was waiting for a child. Otherwise, he was always successful.
He was always settled. He had a peaceful life, and he was prospering in
everything he did. There wasn’t much crisis happening in his life. In contrast,
in the life of Jacob, you can see problems after problems. He was cheated by
his own father-in-law many times. He worked hard for his desire to be
fulfilled. He wanted to marry Rachel, but it did not happen; he was cheated.
The firstborn Leah was given to him for marriage. He had to wait many years to
marry Rachel. He went through lots of crises. He was always in trouble so his
character could be formed, his nature could be tamed, his nature could be
If you are already a purified person, with holiness in your
nature, you will receive the grace on your nature more and more easily. But if
your nature is very contaminated or impure or deceitful, you may have to go
through a purification process. This can be a tough purification process based
on your cooperation with God. If you cooperate with God easily, you will be
cleansed or purified easily and be led to holiness or sainthood.
Attracting the Grace of God can happen through a father’s
Jacob – a man of deceit. Though he received the blessing of
his father, he had to run away from his father and mother. He ran to his uncle,
Laban. On the way, while resting in one place, we read in Genesis
left Beer-sheba and went towards Haran. He came to a certain place and stayed
there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the
place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place.” We don’t know why he stayed
there. Something attracted him. Something made him stay there that night. There
were probably so many good places around, but he stayed there. Since he
received his blessing from his father, there was a hidden hand of God always
working through him. God was leading him to the right places. This place where
he stayed had got something special. That was a holy place. Though he didn’t know it was a holy place, he
reached there and stayed there unknowingly because there was an inner call
within him, that prompted him to stay there. That night, he had a God
experience. If you are a man or woman of blessing, you will be guided by the
Holy Spirit. Just like Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit everywhere, you will
also be led by the Holy Spirit. If you have the blessing on you, the blessing
of your father or your mother, you will be led by the Holy Spirit even without
knowledge. He will lead you to the right place and make you stay in the right
place. That’s how God works.
You must have seen sometime in your life, you were chosen
while others were denied. You were chosen for a ministry, but others were not
given a chance to do ministry. You were chosen for a certain position while
others rejected. You wonder why others haven’t got the chance, but you did.
There’s always a hidden hand of God in you because somewhere somebody’s prayer
and blessing is there. Though your character may not be correct. Maybe you are
the wrong person. You are a deceitful person, an unholy person. But wherever
you go, you get success. That’s because there’s someone’s blessing on you. Just
like in the case of Jacob. His father’s blessing was so powerful, and he
managed somehow to get this blessing. Therefore, wherever he went, he was
successful. Because of his sinful character, he had to go through lots of
struggles, but in whatever endeavors he took up, there was success. This can
also happen in your life. If you are a person of blessing, if you have the
blessing of your father or mother, if somebody is there to pray for you, in
your life you will see unexpected blessings. Even when you are not leading a
good life, God will bless you. Somehow, a blessing will come upon you. But it
won’t be a smooth road because your character is not tamed. So, God will make
sure that your character is also tamed and purified because somebody else is
praying for you, or someone’s blessing is on you.
God uses Jacob to reveal a prophecy
Genesis 28:11 -12 “He came to a certain place and stayed
there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the
place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. And he dreamed that
there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and
the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.” Such a long, huge ladder was
set upon the earth. The top one was touching heaven and the other part was
touching the earth. Angels were ascending and descending on it. It was a
beautiful dream. This was a foreshadow, a prophecy, about the coming of the Saviour,
the Son of God, Jesus himself. We will see the connection soon in the Bible.
Angels were going up and down the ladder, as if there’s an easy shortcut going
to heaven. Anytime, one can go up and come back. So, there’s an easy connection
from earth to heaven—the
supernatural realm and the natural realm. Between God and human being, there’s
an easy connection is created. That was the message given to Jacob. The Lord
was telling him, there’s going to be an easy connection between God and human
beings, the angels will be going up and down easily without trouble.
He also saw the Lord standing beside him, next to the ladder.
The Lord was supposed to be in heaven, but the Lord had come down to this
earth, stood next to him and spoke to him. The Lord was, in fact, giving a
message to him that there will be a Saviour. God himself will come down and
establish a shortcut to heaven so it is easy for you to be connected to heaven
anytime, anywhere. The meaning of Jacob’s ladder.
The Lord was standing there. The ladder and God himself.
That means, Jacob’s Dream is not just about the ladder but also about Yahweh,
the Lord. He saw the ladder plus God. Genesis 28:13 “And the Lord stood beside him and
said, “I am
the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on
which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring.” The Lord promised him that
the land where he was staying would be given to his offspring. Here, it uses a
singular form of ‘offspring’. We know Jacob had 12 children. Then
out of the 12, thousands and thousands of children—all of the Israelites. But the Lord
uses the word ‘your
single offspring will be given this land. This New Israel will be given to that
offspring, and he is, in fact, speaking about Jesus himself. The son of
Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, who is going to establish the New Israel, which is nothing
but the ladder that goes to heaven. So, the New Israel, the Church is the
ladder through which angels will ascend and descend easily. Then God himself
will be there and be revealed to us.
Genesis 28:14 “and your offspring shall be like the
dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and
to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be
blessed in you and in your offspring.” Through this ladder, this
revelation, this shortcut from heaven to earth, the whole world (all the
nations) will be blessed. In fact, God was prophesying about Christianity
through Jesus Christ, the New Israel, the Church, through which the whole world
will be blessed. If you look into the world, you can see the blessing of Christianity.
The world is what it is today because of Christianity. If there is charity,
compassion, mercy, all this tolerance and everything, it is because of
Christianity. Now, if it is losing it’s because Christianity is losing ground.
Let us reflect on the gospel of John 1:47, “When Jesus saw Nathanael coming
toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael is considered as
Bartholomew, as many believe, is one of the apostles. Unlike the old Jacob, who
was named Israel, in Israel there is no Jacob. We can say it like this because
Jacob is a man of deceit. In the same way, Jesus was speaking to this man
Nathanael (Bartholomew) and said, ‘truly an Israelite in whom there is no
The Word of God shapes our character
Genesis 28:48 – Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before
Philip called you.”
Nathanael knew Jesus was a good and Holy man. He was so shocked to know that
Jesus knew him. He said “I saw
you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Jesus was telling him, I saw you
when you were sitting under the fig tree. What does it mean? The Jewish rabbis
used to teach their students under the fig tree. “Sitting under the fig tree” means they are learning the Bible,
the Torah, the Old Testament. So, he was learning and reading the Bible, the
Torah, the Old Testament under the fig tree. That’s when Jesus watched him.
Jesus said, before Philip called you, I saw you sitting under the fig tree
reading the Bible, the Old Testament. I watched you. Remember, this is also a
message for us. Every time you take the Bible to read, the Lord is seeing you,
looking at you. Every time you take the Bible and read the Word of God, God is
watching you. That’s why Jesus said, ‘I
saw you.’ When
you touch the Word of God and read, Jesus sees you. The Lord says, ‘I saw you under the fig tree before
Philip called you.’
The closer we come to Jesus, the more we know about His Character
Genesis 28:49 : Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You
are the King of Israel!” Initially, he wasn’t ready to believe Jesus is the
Messiah. But now, instantly, he believed. Then Jesus said in Genesis
28:50, “Do you
believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see
greater things than these.” Because it’s a secret that only Philip knows that Jesus revealed He
knows. Every secret which you know, which you do—maybe your friends don’t see it, nobody sees it—God sees it. God knows it. Every
secret that you do even in your personal, private, closed room, God watches and
sees it. That’s why, Jesus said, ‘do
you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? But you will
see greater things than these.’
something very special Jesus is going to speak. Because Nathanael was reading
the Old Testament, some theologians and scholars say he was in fact reading
about Jacob’s ladder. Now, Jesus is referring from that passage. What does it
mean? Jesus was telling him, I know you were sitting under the fig tree and
reading the Old Testament, and I know what you were reading (the content of
what he was reading).
God uses Nathanael to reveal a mystery—Jesus’ Divinity
Genesis 28:51 And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see
heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of
In the Old Testament, Jacob saw the ladder and angels ascending and descending,
with the Lord himself standing next to him. Angels were ascending and
descending on the Lord. In the New Testament, Jesus is quoting the same passage
and said, this is what you were reading. The angels of God ascending and
descending on the Son of Man. So, who is the Son of Man? The Lord himself. In
the Old Testament, Jacob saw the Lord himself, standing next to him under the
ladder. Jesus is revealing His Divinity. He’s revealing His Divinity in front
of Nathanael. At the same time, Jesus is revealing that every secret thing you
do, I know. When you are standing, what you are doing, what you are reading.
Another interesting passage is from the message given to
Ananias when Paul was converted. Acts 9:11-12 The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called
Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At
this moment he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come
in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” God
is speaking to Ananias when Paul is praying there. Remember, when you’re in prayer, God is active. When you
are praying here, God is active somewhere else. But not only that, God knows
where you are praying, what is your identity, your secret names, your pet
names, your nicknames, your address, your house/house number, how are you
praying (sitting or standing), what are you praying, what is the content of
your prayer, and what is the vision that you see, every detail God knows.
The more connected we are with God, the more active He
becomes in forming our character, our life, and our future
moment, he is praying.’ No
wonder why God is active. When you are in prayer, God is active somewhere else—for you. God is working somewhere
because you are in prayer. Every time you enter into Church in the presence of
God, every time you bow before the Blessed Sacrament, every time you kneel
down, take the Holy Rosary and pray, remember you are making God active. You
are making God work. You are making God do something for you. You are moving
God. God is an Unmoved Mover but your prayer can move Him. And God says, “At this moment he is praying, and he
has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so
that he might regain his sight.”
God is working hard for his healing. He is praying somewhere, God is working
hard in bringing the right people to him and prepare him for healing. The
moment you kneel down and pray, God is working hard for your healing and
blessing and deliverance. This is how God works.
On this day, as we reflect on these passages, let us thank
the Lord for this wonderful message the Lord has given us. The Lord is watching
over us. The Lord knows every second of our details, every moment of it. When
we are in prayer, we are moving God. We are making God active. Let us thank the
Lord for all these secrets of the Bible, for this moment, for this Word of God
that the Lord has given us.