Following God's dreams
A reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year B
by Tomas Michael
We all have dreams. Big and small. But the biggest dreams are reserved for those we love most – perhaps our spouse or children. This Sunday’s readings reveal a big dream David had. After around fifteen years of running and hiding from King Saul, David is anointed King of Israel when he is thirty years old – in the prime of his life. Yet his dreams are not for himself – to rest and enjoy himself – but for His God who made him who he is.
We read in 2 Samuel (chapters 6-7) that the first thing David does is to bring the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem. Then he wants to build a house fitting for the Lord. In his humility, he consults the man of God, Nathan, who thinks that it is a marvellous idea. But that very night, things take quite a different turn. God speaks to Nathan revealing the incredible plans He has for David and his descendants, yet the privilege of building a Temple for God is not to be David’s.
The way David responds to God’s will is worthy of our meditation. There is no rancour or grumbling in his response but an absolute and grateful surrender to God's will as it is revealed to him. David seems to peep out from the pages of Scripture, asking us: “Are your greatest dreams for yourself or for your God?”
Perhaps, in comparison to David’s, the dreams of the teenage girl presented to us in the Gospel reading would have been quite simple. Mary was living in the insignificant town of Nazareth and was betrothed to Joseph, who was a carpenter by profession. Her dreams, in all probability, would have been to be a loving wife and a strong mother, to raise up a family with her husband to truly honour God.
But God had a special dream for her which would have been beyond her wildest imaginations. Her response, on being assured that this miracle will be the work of the Spirit, was a confident and bold Yes. “Be it done unto me, according to Thy word.” We often say these words, albeit much more casually, when we pray the Angelus. But Mary’s response manifests what St. Ignatius of Loyola taught: “It is not hard to obey when we love the one whom we obey.”
I have met many who marvel at the likes of Mary and David. They ask how these people could surrender so easily. Did they not have struggles that do not find a mention in the Scriptures?
I do not have to search much to see what made obedience easier in my life. It was God stooping to an eighteen-year-old struggling to make sense of his father’s sudden death and revealing Himself as the Father. Suddenly I knew! The curtain was torn open. What was grey and obscure became unexpectedly clear. If the One who holds the whole cosmic universe in His hands is my Father and His love can only give me His best, what should I worry about? If I had gone up to the terrace of my home as a confused orphan, I came back an hour later as a confident son. I had met someone who loved me more than l loved myself. I did not deserve it, yet thus started a walk of trust. And today, after thirty-five years, I can confidently say, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame” (Romans 10:11).
The deep inner knowing of God’s personal and unconditional love, which grew over the years thanks to the Bible, spiritual books, and the fellowship of like-minded people, did help in taming to a great extent the innate desires of my heart to do what I
wanted. It was easier to obey in the big decisions, like vocation, job, etc., because I knew that God knows what is best for me, and I did not want to miss out on that. Where I struggled – and still do – is in the smaller choices of daily living. The words of Venerable Fulton J. Sheen continually speak to my heart: “Our Lord spent three hours in redeeming, three years in teaching, and thirty years in obeying, in order that a rebellious, proud, and diabolically independent world might learn the value of obedience.” His plans can become fruitful in our lives only if we consciously and constantly turn away from our desire to “go our own way” (Isaiah 53:6) and embrace His ways.
This Advent season summons us to quieten ourselves and realize the disordered desires lurking in our hearts. At times, we need to struggle like Jesus in Gethsemane to bring some of our thoughts, desires, and emotions to the altar of obedience and cry out, “Not my will but Thine, O God.” But we do not struggle alone as grace joins us to deliver us from our self. That is why He became a man. To lead those who believe to the Kingdom of Grace!
Christmas gently beckons us to be more like Mary and David. To love Him supremely and obey Him gladly. Because God has reserved his biggest dreams for those He loves most – and that is YOU and ME!!! Of course, you don’t want to miss out on that, do you?
The readings for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year B, are
2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16
Tomas Michael is from Trivandrum, India. He is married to Seenu, who is a lecturer in French, and has three teenage children: John, Elisa, and Michelle. He is a part of Jesus Youth (an international Catholic movement approved by the Holy See) and a member of its International Formation Team. After a career in the banking industry for two decades, he took voluntary retirement to serve as a full-time missionary for the movement since 2014.