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From Dream to Reality

Before the momentous battle of Gaugamela, where the Macedonians under Alexander the Great would defeat the Persians under Darius, Alexander slept soundly. His advisers thought it best to attack at night and gain a military advantage. When Parmenio came to wake him, he was surprised that Alexander was sleeping so soundly. How can you be so calm, as if you have already won the battle? Is it not so? We no longer have to seek Darius and wonder if he will fight. Victory will be ours. Seeing that their commander was so confident that he could even sleep, the Macedonians were roused until they routed the Persians.

A good night’s sleep is a blessing. It can come from confidence in oneself, as was the case of Alexander. It can also come from trust in God. Trust in God led to Joseph having a sound sleep.

Some call St. Joseph the “Terror of Demons.” When Joseph sleeps, the Devil trembles. He knows that God might be hatching a plan that will put him in a tight spot.

Joseph’s dreams led him into experiences he would never have imagined. The first of these upended his betrothal, but made him the father of the Messiah; the second caused him to flee to Egypt, but saved the life of his family. After the third, which foretold his return to his native land, a fourth dream made him change plans once again, bringing him to Nazareth, the place where Jesus would begin his preaching of the Kingdom of God. Amid all these upheavals, he found the courage to follow God’s will. So too in a vocation: God’s call always urges us to take a first step, to give ourselves, to press forward. There can be no faith without risk. (Pope Francis, Message for 2021 World Day of Vocations, 25 April 2021)

The dreams of Joseph led to trouble for the Devil. God’s plans were conquering the Devil’s plans. Joseph had received the blessing with sleep.

The blessing of sleep

Rather than coming from confidence in his power, Joseph was confident in God’s power. When he was confused about the message from Mary that she was with child, he slept. When afraid about the evil designs of Herod, he slept. When it came time to return from Egypt, he slept. His sleep brought dreams, dreams powerful enough to guide his family to follow the plan laid out by God the Father. His designs were made known to Joseph through a dream.

So often, when we feel that there is much that we want to do, we burn the midnight oil and exhaust ourselves. How often is it that God wants us to trust in him and simply go to sleep?

From dream to reality

One of the cool things about carpentry is that everything begins in your head. I have to admit, one of my dreams is to make a box with dovetail joints. I think it would be so cool to do carpentry without nails. I want things to be solid but not need nails. Maybe it is a bit of wasted effort, but it turns out to be beautiful.

Anything we make with wood begins in our heads. We have to think about it first to make it.

Aristotle talks about the four causes in his book, The Metaphysics. There is the material cause, formal cause, final cause, and efficient cause. The final cause can be said to be the first cause since it is the cause of everything else. We think first of what we want, then set about to make it.

To make a dovetail jointed box, I would first have to learn how to work the wood. I would have to learn to manage the various saws and select the proper wood. There would be many intermediate steps before I would ever be able to build the desired box. My finality, my end, would be driving the whole process. Thus, my dream would become a reality.

A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do

After a good night’s sleep, it is time for action. Often, we turn things around and get ourselves into trouble. We deny ourselves the proper rest and then drag our tired bodies through the day as unwilling slaves of our weak wills. We live unproductive days and learn to loathe ourselves in the process. One tired day follows another until our self-hate inspires a change.

Steve Jobs said, “I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘no’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

This is not an excuse to do that which pleases us. Instead, it is a challenge to find meaning in our daily lives. St. Joseph did not have a glamorous day planned for each rotation of the earth on its axis. Nevertheless, he was able to fill each day with tremendous meaning. He was able to work to take care of Mary, the Mother of God, and Jesus, the Son of God, entrusted to his care. He did not have to go through the world looking for meaning. He found tremendous significance in the ordinary tasks he was able to carry out for the most influential people in the history of the world.

The vocation that God gives us is a dream that he has for each one of us. God calls us to fulfill his dreams. Following God’s will is the source of our true happiness.

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