JANUARY 13, 2010 Ė 1 SAMUEL 3:1-10, 1920; MARK 1:29-39

 

DREAMS ARE A MYSTERIOUS phenomenon as appears in the first reading today. Samuel required the advice of an experienced priest and prophet before he understood that the voice he heard came from his dream and had an important message.They occupy a considerable portion of every personís life in that we pass about one third of our existence on earth asleep, and dreaming occurs for about twenty minutes during the five sleep cycles that make up the average nightís sleep. What is their function? Do dreams have meaning? If so just what do they tell us? Are there any principles that allow us to interpret our dreams? These questions arise today as they have through the centuries, but there is a major difference in this age of science and technology. For in the year 1900 Sigmund Freud published his influential work, The Interpretation of Dreams. This work proposed principles for deciphering their messages from the unconscious. Not surprisingly the validity of these insights that were enthusiastically acclaimed by many met with reserves and even rejection by others. In more recent times it has proved feasible to observe the activities of the various tracts of the brain that are activated in the dream process during dreams. Many interesting features of the physiological workings of our nervous system have resulted from such studies. They throw some light on the nature of certain human experiences. One of the conclusions that seems legitimate from this data is that dreaming is a process that organizes certain of the perceptions occurring in our conscious hours, digesting them, as it were, by relating them to the various appropriate brain cells. There they are stored in forms that represent potential energy, capable when properly stimulated, of reproducing the images and feelings that arose in the past.

 

That dreams can reflect unconscious operations of the mind that reveal hidden secrets of nature was illustrated strikingly by the Belgian chemist Kukule, toward the end of the nineteenth century. He made one of the most critical discoveries in the field of organic chemistry when he interpret his dream of a snake swallowing his own tail. This image suggested to him the correct structure of the atoms that constitute the benzene ring. Dreams can indeed reveal what nature, even our brain, hides from our conscious self.

 

The Bible witnesses to the existence of dreams and makes clear that some dreams have a highly significant meaning for they consist of messages sent by God directly. Rightly to grasp the meaning of these divinely inspired dreams is itself a special gift from heaven as we learn from the life of the Patriarch Joseph in the book of Genesis. His proved ability rightly to expound the meaning hidden under the dream symbols resulted in the saving of the lives of the chosen people. In the first reading of todayís liturgy we are made to understand that interpreting a dream is not without its difficulty, for dreams are often enigmatic and so remain obscure or even misleading. Samuel had to be initiated into the significance of his dream before he could grasp that it simply meant that God spoke to him in a manner as to fortify his vocation. The sense of Godís caring presence became a the environment in which Samuel lived, grew up and developed as a prophet and priest who could discern Godís will for the people in particular cases.

 

This fact of the divinely inspired dream suggests further that God at will can intervene in the hidden operations of all of nature in a manner that transcends natureís laws. The findings of quantum physics reveal that nature itself is so structured as to respond actively to activities external to itself. In any case, in todayís account of the miracle Jesus worked when he healed Simonís mother-in-law with a word, we have evidence thatnature itself is so structured that it remains responsive to a power beyond itself that comes from its creator. Not only was the material world created by the Word of God, it remains sustained by his word, and is ever responsive to him. This response of nature to the healing words of Jesus did not cease with his return to the Father. On the contrary, the risen Christ continues to be a source of new life and intervenes not only in nature but in the human spirit by grace, preparing the New Creation, destined for the praises of God for all eternity. It is with the vision of the elect as dwelling in the heavenly city that descends from God that the Bible closes. In this way, we are given assurance, not only by Jesusí miracles of healing, but by the whole of revelation, that God himself takes initiative in coming to save us. By this Eucharist we praise and thank him for his care and loving Providence.&


Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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