Great Dreams and Depth

There is a wonderful little YouTube fragment providing an interview with the new Jesuit general superior, Fr. Adolfo Nicolás. He speaks about the necessity for Jesuits – but I think it is true for all of us – to dream “great” dreams and to do things “in depth”. “Great dreams” are dreams that involve us, dreams to which we actively commit, that move us into action. “In depth” refers to going beyond the job or the duty we have to do, by unveiling deeper and empowering dimensions of reality. These are two profound dimensions for theology.

Great dreams refers to eschatological visions. Such visions are not unattainably distant utopias, but rather future attractors that move us into action now out of the relationship with God. We discover and explore the content of such visions by committing to them, by acting out of the desire to see them realized. In this we trust our relationship with God. I have no idea of the precise content of the eschatological vision of the Kingdom of God – when I think of the community and the communion it seems to presuppose and when I look at the world in which I live, I despair. Can I imagine to sit at the same table with people I can’t stand, drinking a coffee with them and looking with great humor at our antagonisms. Just imagining this – on the authority of the God who promises this communion of the Kingdom – makes me aware of the fact that maybe I have to look differently at my relationships with the people I can’t stand … Do I want this? “Great” dreams are dreams that urge me to change profoundly my life styles, my attitudes, my actions. The energy to do so arises out of the relationship with God, as it embodies itself concretely in the world in which I live. Eschatology is about the challenging concreteness of such visions that we prefer to consider unattainable but that we know we have to face on the ground of our friendship with God.

Exploring reality in depth indicates that there is a stimulating and empowering strength emerging out of the willingness to look at reality in the way God looks at it and in the way God looks at us through reality. Looking at the world with the eyes of someone else always reveals unsuspected depths: how can it be that you love a person that I try to avoid as much as possible? what qualities do you see that I don’t see, can’t see, or don’t want to see? It is a quite refreshing and sometimes unsettling experience to look at things and people as God, their Creator, looks at them, to discover potentialities and beauty in the limits and ugliness that we project on others. It is also quite an experience to open up to God’s voice and look as it comes to us through the others, to discover how in the others God encourages and calls us. In these ways – looking at things and people as God looks at them, and becoming aware of God’s voice addressing us through the others – we discover the divine life at the core of reality and how God brings us into deep community with all of reality. Ignatius Loyola would say: we are becoming “friends in the Lord”.

Adolfo Nicolás speaks a consoling language: don’t capitulate to the frustrations of unfulfilled dreams and wounded expectations, don’t give in for a moment to the impression that reality is superficial and fleeting. Rather, dig deep to discover the divine spark in yourself and the world, and, then, confidently, dream great and trust the God who dreams and commit to these dreams right in this our world.

I know this may sound a bit “preachy”, but at the same time theology is about pointing in the direction of depth and great dreams, particularly in a time when we risk to lose heart because reality in all its complexity seems so threatening and disheartening.

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