Jacob left Beer-sheva and went toward 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. 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. 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; 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. Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you." Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, "Surely the Lord is in this place--and I did not know it!" And he was afraid, and said, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven."
So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. He called that place Bethel; but the name of the city was Luz at the first. Then Jacob made a vow, saying, "If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father's house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God, and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God's house; and of all that you give me I will surely give one tenth to you."
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
and abides in the shade of the Almighty
says to the Lord: 'My refuge, my stronghold,
my God in whom I trust!' (R./)
It is he who will free you from the snare
of the fowler who seeks to destroy you;
he will conceal you with his pinions
and under his wings you will find refuge. (R./)
His love he set on me, so I will rescue him;
protect him for he knows my name.
When he calls I shall answer: 'I am with you.'
I will save him in distress. (R./)
While Jesus was speaking, a leader of the synagogue came up and knelt before him, saying, "My daughter has just died; but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live." And Jesus got up and followed him, with his followers.
Then suddenly a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his cloak, for she said to herself, "If I only touch his cloak, I will be made well." Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, "Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well." And instantly the woman was made well.
When Jesus came to the leader's house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, he said, "Go away; for the girl is not dead but sleeping." And they laughed at him. But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl got up. And the report of this sprad throughout that district.
Family and personal problems feature in today's readings. The envy of his twin brother forced Jacob to flee for his life; and Jesus responds to a family tragedy, the death of the synagogue leader's daughter. Repeatedly Biblical religion has to do with the needs and crises of people in everyday life. The ancient sanctuary of Bethel (Hebrew "House of God") is linked toJacob's flight from his brother Esau and with the exhausted Jacob's need for sleep. It was already a shrine, but its sacred character is reinterpreted due to Jacob's dream.
Religious rivalry can cause serious family problems. Jacob had stolen the blessing of the first-born from his blind father, Isaac, by the intrigue of his mother, Rebekah, who favoured Jacob over her more unruly son Esau. When Esau was seeking for revenge, Jacob had to flee to the place where Abraham never wanted his offspring to settle, (as we read last Friday). The setting for Jacob's dream of angels and for God's renewal of covenantal promises was hardly the tranquil sanctuary it later became.
By letting himself be touched by a woman with a flow of blood and by taking a dead child by the hand, Jesus too was stepping outside conventional norms. There must have been a great freedom in Jesus, an overwhelming compassion, a decisive urge to help the needy, so that people deemed "unclean" would presume to touch him and even request him to touch them. These examples invite us to think outside the box, as we seek an authentic way to live our religion in today's world.
Two people approached Jesus in with two quite different needs. One was a synagogue official who came on behalf of his daughter and the other a woman with a haemorrhage who came on her own behalf. Their ways of approaching him are quite different. The synagogue official came quite publicly, and spoke aloud his need and his request. The woman came secretly, touching the fringe of Jesus' cloak, and speaking only to herself.
Our own approach to the Lord always has a quality unique to each of us, as individual as our way of relating to other people. Both the synagogue official and the bleeding woman were people of faith but they expressed their faith differently. Our faith brings us together as a community, but it does not suppress our individuality. Jesus responded warmly to both the synagogue official and the woman. He was equally responsive to their need and their cry for help. The Lord's response to us is always measured to the way we approach him.