24 November 2009 Tuesday of the 34th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Daniel 2, 31-45; Dn 3, 57-61; Luke 21, 5-11
The story of Daniel and his interpretation of the dream of Nebuchadnezzar simply points out that the ruling kingdoms of the world will eventually fall, giving way to an eternal kingdom being established by God alone. Nebuchadnezzar dreamt of a huge human statue made of different metals that crumbled to its feet when struck by a mysterious stone. He had all of Babylon’s interpreters to explain his dream and its details. But none of them had the ability; they acknowledged that no human being will be able to do what the king desired. In his frustration, the king ordered them killed. It was in this context that Daniel and his companions, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were summoned.
Daniel said that the different parts of the body of the statue, consisting of different metals and materials, represented different kingdoms. The head of gold represented Babylon; chest and arms of silver, Media; belly and thighs of bronze, Persia; legs of iron, Greece; finally, the feet of iron and tile symbolized Alexander’s empire ridden with division with the Ptolemies running Egypt and the Seleucids governing Syria on which the dreaded Antiochus Epiphanes in the story of the book of Maccabees belonged.
In the end, the king acknowledges the superiority of Daniel’s God by the wisdom he displayed. And so Daniel was given the highest office in the land, while Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were given provincial posts upon Daniel’s request.
In the bible, Daniel was not the only dreamer. Joseph of Genesis 37 had a similar story. It was a dream that led his brothers to sell him to Egypt. It was the interpretation of two dreams of his co-prisoners, the butler and the baker that led him to the court of Pharaoh. And it was finally the interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream that he was rewarded the governorship of Egypt in the time of plenty and famine. It was as governor that his family was saved from famine. Another Joseph in the New Testament, would also save the baby Jesus and his family from the hands of King Herod.
Our dreams have something to say about where we are and what we are to do. God can speak to us through our dreams. Psychology tells us that every dream and the characters in it are symbols of ourselves. It can tell us where we are. When we dream of being chased, our subconscious tells us that maybe we are anxious. Running away from something is a symbol of being afraid of something. When we have recurring nightmares, it may tell us that it is time to face the greatest fears that we have been avoiding. What are we afraid of? What do we need to confront? Of course, our dreams are not as definitive, but analyzing them may teach us something real and true at present.
Dreams can also tell us where we want to be; where we want to go. To be able to imagine ourselves in the future is the content of our dreams. It gives us direction, because it is the goal to which all our decisions and our motivations lead to. It is, if we are to use the first reading, the establishment of that eternal and ideal self. Our dream are envisions of our perfect self, in an ideal life-setting. A person who do not have dreams will always find themselves directionless and confused. Often, these are the persons whose personalities have not reached a solidification, a clearer identity, that they do not know what they want or, tragically, who they are. Thus, like the statue made of different materials, eventually they will crumble to their feet. On the other hand, those who are successful use and interpret their dreams in the present context and then they move towards their vision.
Let’s put this thing on the ground. After all, this blog is about practical faith. What are we to do with dreams which we find harder to reach? Often these dreams look like vanishing objects on the horizon. They slowly disappear because we have put off a lot of work that leads to the fulfillment of these dreams.
One thing to do is to have our eye on the prize as St. Paul said. And then give ourselves a deadline. Oftentimes, other people give us a deadline; it is often beneficial if we are the ones who decide when such a thing will be accomplished. A sense of urgency comes with a deadline. How many times have we finished a paper because the deadline is in about a few hours? When the “deadliest deadline” is within the horizon, we suddenly find ourselves resourceful.
Second, when a self-imposed deadline is given, we work out steps towards it. At first, we will find it taxing, but my experience teaches me that the tediousness comes like the first lessons in music. Once you get into the groove, everything falls into place. Do the detailed steps 1, 2, and 3. And tick each step once it’s done. One of the things that gives me satisfaction during the day is ticking one step done at a time; the excitement is derived from nearing the prize.
Finally, include the people we love into our schedules. Tell them about our goals. Often we tell ourselves to do things alone, on our terms. People just mess things up. And when we don’t reach the goal, the shame is greater when people know. But my experience tells me that the opposite is true: when we have friends who know and they support us, reaching our dreams becomes easier. On occasions when our dreams are wild and weird, the support from friends make what is insane, sane. Take Daniel: he had Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah who prayed with him before they took steps to present themselves at the foot of King Nebuchadnezzar. The rest is history.