Rebekah had been listening while Isaac was speaking to his son Esau. So, when Esau went out into the country to hunt some game for his father, Rebekah [then] took the best clothes of her older son Esau that she had in the house, and gave them to her younger son Jacob to wear; and with the skins of the kids she covered up his hands and the hairless parts of his neck. Then she handed her son Jacob the appetizing dish and the bread she had prepared.
Today's story from the Book of Genesis concerns four people: the aging, dying Isaac, his wife Rebekah and their twin sons, Esau and Jacob. None is especially attractive but each has some charm. They might be "a typically dysfunctional family."
Among the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, his first born, gets little respect. He seems neither bright nor alert to what goes on around him; his function in the narrative is to pass along Abraham's blessing. Esau is a rough and ready hunter, attractive for his calloused hands and earthy smell. If he is too careless about his birthright he can hardly be blamed for assuming that Jacob was kidding when he bought a bowl of porridge with his firstborn privilege. Jacob, like his mother, is a schemer. He always has something going on; but like many con men, he is also a sap for other's schemes.
Finally, there is Rebekah, the beautiful girl, now an enterprising mother. I've heard it said, "The first child is Dad's; the second child is Mom's." Rebekah prefers her second son, though her sons are twins.
Rebekah's deception and Isaac's confusion fits a biblical pattern of favoring the second or youngest son: Abel over Cain; Isaac over Ishmael; David over his elders; and the prodigal over his older brother. Even Jesus, God's only begotten son, is preferred over Adam, the first man.
On this Saturday of Ordinary Time, we can reflect on Rebekah as a type of Mary. Perhaps you are familiar with "typology," the practice of finding antecedents for Jesus, Mary, the Church and other New Testament figures in the Old Testament. For instance, Adam is a type of Jesus; Paul called him the "first man" and Jesus, the "new man." There are dozens of men in the Old Testament who resemble Jesus in some typological fashion.
Mary also has her antecedents: Eve, Sarah, Ruth, Esther, Judith, the Maccabean widow, and others. Rebekah is like Mary in her beauty and charm and her take-charge willingness. When Abraham's servant arrived to carry her away from her family and homeland to meet and marry a distant cousin, Rebekah overruled her own brothers and set out immediately! She couldn't be bothered with a sentimental farewell party. Mary also accepted the Lord's command immediately when she replied, "I am the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to your word."
She is like Rebekah too in her prayers for us. As Rebekah intervened on behalf of her favorite son, so does Mary pray for us. This is why we ask her daily and many times a day, "Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death."
Finally, she prayed with the disciples in the Cenacle as they waited for Jesus' promise to be fulfilled. If Rebekah managed Jacob's blessing, Mary oversaw the Descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples. For that alone we can celebrate both women!
Because Mary bore Jesus as a virgin, she is the only human being who makes us kin to Jesus. Our relationship to God is not just a "spiritual thing;" it comes physically through her.
I remember how my own mother kept me in touch with my family. I was no sooner at home on vacation, my suitcase unopened, than I had to call my grandmother and say hello! She announced my coming and arranged my visitations. It's a mother's prerogative to remind us where we came from and to whom we belong.
Jesus's last word to Mary: Behold your child!" His final word to us, "Behold your mother." Thank you, Rebekah, for setting the precedents which Mary fulfilled.