We all dream dreams. Dreams are what motivate us to live fully and purposefully.
Without dreams, life becomes a drudgery and a routine. Israel too, had a dream. They dreamt of a land that was fertile, with trees, plants and crops growing, where waters flowed in the rivers; where wilderness became a lake. There was food and plenty. We too have our dreams for the family, the church and society. Our dreams are not much different from theirs because we all desire peace, prosperity and unity.
But when we embark on making our dreams into reality, we cannot but feel diffident. Can our dreams be realized? Who are we to accomplish our dreams? Like the Israelites, we feel inadequate and unworthy. This too was the same feeling of all great leaders. When Moses was called by the Lord, he also said, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?” (Ex 3:11) Gideon too expressed a similar sentiment when he was asked to deliver Israel from the Midianites. “Pray, Lord, how can I deliver Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manas′seh, and I am the least in my family.” (Jdg 6:15) The prophet Isaiah when asked replied, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isa 6:5)
This is where we fail to realize that we cannot fulfill the plans of God on our own strength but by the strength that comes from Him. Hence, the Lord assured Israel, “For I, the Lord, your God, I am holding you by the right hand; I tell you, ‘Do not be afraid, I will help you’. Do not be afraid, Jacob, poor worm, Israel, puny mite.’ I will help you – it is the Lord who speaks – the Holy One of Israel is your redeemer.” It was the same promise to the leaders and prophets of Israel. To Moses, God said, “But I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought forth the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God upon this mountain.” (Ex 3:12) To Gideon, the Lord said, “But I will be with you, and you shall smite the Mid′ianites as one man.” (Jdg 6:16)
But the assurance of God’s blessings and divine protection does not mean it will be easy. Jesus said, “Since John the Baptist came, up to this present time, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence and the violent are taking it by storm.” In other words, we will face challenges to our plans. There will be opposition. At times, things can get ugly. There can be lawsuits and our enemies may seek to disrupt our plans because their interests are compromised. We may become a threat to their status quo. People resist change as it means their having to be inconvenienced and they may have to change their lifestyle and routine. This was the case of John the Baptist. The religious leaders knew that he was a prophet of God, perhaps even the Elijah who was to come again to prepare for the coming of the Messiah. But they were not ready. Indeed, Jesus affirmed this truth when He said, “Because it was towards John that all the prophecies of the prophets and of the Law were leading; and he, if you will believe me, is the Elijah who was to return. If anyone has ears to hear, let him listen!” John the Baptist was the one to prepare for the coming of the Messiah. He was the Elijah promised to the people. He was the fulfillment of the prophet Malachi when he said, “Behold, I will send you Eli′jah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse.” (Mal 4:5f) And John the Baptist did precisely that. He called the people to repentance and prepared them for the coming of the Messiah by baptizing them for the forgiveness of sins. However, he was rejected by the religious leaders as he threatened their position in society and the privileges that came with their position.
That is why Jesus tells us that we must be equally strong to resist the opposition of the world. We must show ourselves to be stronger than the resistance of the world. St John the Baptist was not afraid of suffering for the truth. He was not afraid of poverty or martyrdom. He spoke according to his conscience even in front of Herod and his adulterous wife, Herodias. He did not mince his words. He was not afraid to be embarrassed and misunderstood. Like John the Baptist, we too must be strong. We must be ready to face persecution and being misunderstood. We can be sure that even if we do good and have no vested interests, there will be fake news distorting the truth and accusing us of intentions or things that we are not guilty of. Today, in the light of social media, fake news are often being passed around as truth, poisoning the minds of those who are naive and innocent.
Most of all, we must be selfless in whatever we do, even in making our dreams come true. This is because those who dream dreams often do not live in them. We do not dream dreams for ourselves but for the future of our children, church and humanity. Consequently, those who initiate the dream seldom live to see the dream fully realized; perhaps with God’s grace, only partially. But precisely, such dreamers are truly working for the glory of God and the good of their people because they are not the beneficiaries. Not only do they not get to enjoy the fruits of their labour but they are not even there to get the glory. This is what distinguishes career from vocation; ambition from mission.
This was what the Lord said of John the Baptist. “I tell you solemnly, of all the children born of women, a greater than John the Baptist has never been seen; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he is.” John the Baptist was only a forerunner of the Messiah. His role was to prepare the bride to receive the bridegroom. He was not the bride but only a friend of the bridegroom. He was not the Word but only the voice of God. He said, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” (Jn 1:23) “He who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” (Jn 1:27) John the Baptist was martyred just as Jesus began His ministry. He was not able to see the fullness of God’s love and mercy revealed in Christ’s passion, death and resurrection. He was only given a foretaste of the coming of God’s kingdom. Jesus told the disciples of John, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.” (Mt 11:4f)
This too is true of all leaders. True leaders will sow the seed for tomorrow. They do not ask, “What is there in it for me?”, as do worldly leaders. But true leaders ask, “what can I do for my people, my church and my country?” St Paul said to the quarrelsome Corinthians, “What then is Apol′los? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apol′los watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are equal, and each shall receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.” (1 Cor 3:5-9) Good and selfless leaders are not concerned about reward and glory. They are concerned about serving God and the people. This was also the case of Moses. He did not enter the Promised Land that He led his people into. The Lord said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there.” (Dt 34:4)
Indeed, in the final analysis, it does not matter whether we are the ones who will complete the dream, or whether someone else does. What is of utmost importance is that we must persevere in building the dream that God has planted in us. We are called to do our part and leave the rest to God. The full flowering might not come in our time. We could be called simply to lay the foundation, as John the Baptist did for Jesus. So let us be content to play our role and leave success to God alone. Indeed, “How good is the Lord to all!”