REBUILDING OUR SHATTERED DREAMS
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [Gn 28:10-22; Ps 91:1-4, 14-15; Mt 9:18-26 ]
We must have dreams in order to live our life meaningfully and passionately. Dreams symbolize our aspirations and our hopes for a better life and a greater future, not just for oneself but our loved ones, our family and the nation. We dream of making a success of our life, in our studies, career and business. Some of us dream of building a beautiful family of love; sharing, caring and united. Having great dreams is important, but what if our dreams are shattered because of failure, setbacks, opposition or unforeseen circumstances like ill-health, economic downturn, betrayal in business or in relationships, and worst of all, an accident or even an untimely death?
This was the case for Jacob, the daughter of the official who died, and of the woman suffering from hemorrhage. They, too, had their dreams shattered. Jacob connived with his mother to receive the blessings from Isaac to realize God’s promise to his grandfather, Abraham. He was ambitious and dishonest in making his dream came true. As a consequence, he was punished when Esau found out. He had to flee from Esau and take refuge in Haran. Rebekah, for her instigation too, was punished for she said, “Why should I lose both of you in one day?” (Gn 27:45) So, too, was the case of the woman with hemorrhage. St Luke told us that she “had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years; and though she had spent all she had on physicians, no one could cure her.” (Lk 8:43) Twelve years is a long time. And furthermore, she had spent all her money to find a cure. She was desperate to find healing for her illness which must have caused her much shame, inconvenience and rejection. Her dreams, too, must have been shattered. Then we have the official and his young daughter who died. We can imagine how devastated the father must have been to lose his young daughter of twelve years old, which meant that she had just arrived at adulthood. (cf Mk 5:42) She had a bright future ahead of her. Both the father’s and daughter’s dreams were shattered.
When our dreams are shattered, what do we do? How can we continue to live our lives? For many of us, we simply give up. We resign ourselves to the situation. When we act in this manner, we are part of the crowd who was making a commotion at the official’s house because they thought and believed that the daughter had died and hence there was no more hope. Thus, when Jesus said, “the little girl is not dead, she is asleep”, they laughed at Him. Indeed, people will always laugh at our dreams. One of the sons of Jacob, Joseph, too had big dreams but was laughed at by his brothers. (cf Gen 37:5-11) So, too, when Jesus shared His dream of restoring Israel at the beginning of His ministry with His townsfolks at the synagogue, they were amazed at Him and said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.” (Mk 6:2-4; cf Lk 4:14-28)
Today, we are asked to have faith in the dreams that God has planted in our hearts. We must revive the dream again and again. So when Jacob thought that all was lost, the Lord gave him a dream. “A ladder was there, standing on the ground with its top reaching to heaven; and there were angels of God going up it and coming down. And the Lord was there, standing over him, saying, ‘I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father, and the God of Isaac. I will give to you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants shall be like the specks of dust on the ground; you shall spread to the west and the east, to the north and the south, and all the tribes of the earth shall bless themselves by you and your descendants.” It was such a beautiful dream that gave him hope again.
This was the same dream that Isaac gave Jacob before he left for Haran, “May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and increase your numbers until you become a community of peoples. May he give you and your descendants the blessing given to Abraham, so that you may take possession of the land where you now reside as a foreigner, the land God gave to Abraham.” (Gen 28:3f) This dream lived on in Jacob although it took many years before it was realized. But because of this dream, he persevered. According to scripture scholars’ calculation, it was only 40 years later that he was reconciled with his brother Esau and found forgiveness.
Jesus came to give us a chance to rebuild our dream as well. When the woman with the hemorrhage was about to give up hope, there came Jesus to give her hope, to rebuild her dream. She was so ashamed of herself that she could not bear to ask Jesus to heal her publicly; instead, she sneaked near Jesus and touched His cloak. In faith, “she said to herself, ‘If I can only touch his cloak I shall be well again.’ Jesus turned round and saw her; and he said to her, ‘Courage, my daughter, your faith has restored you to health.'” How encouraging were the words of our Lord! Such words gave her hope. When we are ashamed of our past, our failures and are discouraged, the Lord too says to us as He said to the woman, “Courage, my daughter.” So in times of helplessness and hopelessness, we must have courage. We read, “And from that moment the women was well again.”
Faith is what helps us to rebuild our dreams. This faith must be founded on God and not on ourselves. When we rely on ourselves only, our plans will not come to fruition. Such is the short-sightedness of man. We want to do things our own way and find our own means to fulfill our dreams. Abraham made this mistake himself. Impatient at waiting for God to give him a child, he took Hagar to be his wife and conceived Ismael when he should have waited for God to give him Isaac. Jacob, too, manipulated his father, Isaac, to give him his blessings to continue the dream of Abraham as promised by God. They could not wait for God to fulfill His plans for them. As a consequence, they brought more problems for themselves later on because they did not follow God’s plan. So, too, the crowd at the official’s house was mourning because they gave up hope instead of turning to the power of God. Christ, by His death and resurrection, is the only one who can fulfill all our dreams. Christ who raised the child back to life, too, will give us life to the fullest if we trust in Him.
The truth in life is that God’s plan for us will always be fulfilled, regardless. No one can defeat the plan of God. He will write straight in crooked lines. If we want our life to be smooth, we must simply cooperate with the plan of God. It does not mean that we will have no challenges in life. But we must take them in our stride as part of the process of God’s plan at work in our lives. Through the ups and downs of life, so long as we sincerely want to cooperate with God’s will, He will show us the way and He will lead us. We must trust in His divine wisdom and plan for us. This was how Jacob was able to persevere for so many years, holding on to his dream, labouring in Haran for Laban for 20 years whilst he built up his family gradually. When the time was opportune, he went back to Canaan to fulfill the dream of his forefathers.
Where, then, can we revive our dreams? It is in prayer that our dreams are reaffirmed, as in the case of Jacob. In the dream, he heard the voice of God reassuring him. “Be sure that I am with you; I will keep you safe wherever you go, and bring you back to this land, for I will not desert you before I have done all that I have promised you.” Hence, Jacob said, “Truly, the Lord is in this place and I never knew it! How awe-inspiring this place is! This is nothing less than a house of God; this is the gate of heaven!” Indeed, only in prayer can we encounter the Lord and His love for us. We need to hear Him affirming us in His love as we discover His will and plan for us. With the psalmist, we pray, “My refuge, my stronghold, my God in whom I trust. 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. Since he clings to me in love, I will free him; protect him for he knows my name.”
Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved
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