Along with the great stories of Noah in the flood, Daniel in the furnace and Jonah in the whale, Isaac’s Blessing of Jacob is among the most memorable in the Hebrew Scripture. It is a wonderful and even whimsical story that invokes all of our senses—even smell, touch and taste. Furthermore, the dressing in animal hides and sibling rivalry might resonate with that child which remains a part of us, if only in memory.

Does the story suggest trickery should win the day or that ends can justify deceiving the deceive-able?  Perhaps, but what struck me today is that God works through surprises. Sometimes what initially looks unfortunate can turn out well.  With hindsight, isn’t this how it often works?

Before their assassinations, the Jesuit martyrs in El Salvador frequently shared their experience of discovering their truest mission only when they came into contact with the poor and suffering.  While they initially came from Spain to Central America to help establish a university, they each report that their real mission was gradually and often surprisingly revealed to them through their pastoral encounters with those who were the oppressed.

Good News took on a new power when seen from the perspective of those who had been dealt an unfortunate hand. They approached the poor to render service but came away with the realization that they were the ones served. In this way, our God of surprises continues to unfold salvation history.

-John Sealey is the provincial assistant for social and international ministries for the Chicago-Detroit and Wisconsin Jesuit provinces.