This week we celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He was a charismatic civil rights leader who offered a new vision for the United States; who gave to the world “I Have a Dream.” He dared to imagine a different way of living his life to promote change on behalf of millions of others—most of whom he would never know. Those who accept his public declaration of an attentive worldview can harness that power; declare and realize their own dreams.
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Throughout my graduate school classes, conferences and formation studies I have continually been reminded that where we stand has a direct correlation to what we see. If you choose to perch from a place of power in order to maintain power you will not see the horizon from the vantage point of those with little control over their struggling existence. It’s a paradox starkly reflected in the refugee crisis in our world. Each time I see a photo my heart is twisted by the pain and anguish I see on the faces of those unnamed and suffering and unsafe before my eyes.
It’s these images that remind me of one of my professors in graduate school, Carla Mae Streeter, O.P. She gave us an assignment to search magazines and newspapers for an image of a person whose vulnerability spoke to our hearts. She challenged us to keep the image in a place of remembrance throughout our studies to remind us of why we were students of theology, and what the Gospel calls each of us to do. This assignment was more than just a class requirement: it continues to be a lasting life lesson. Each time I enter discernment--from ministry to volunteer opportunity--I reflect on why I am discerning and choosing action. Will the choice before me reflect Gospel tenants?
Questioning motives and desires is an important part of discerning religious life. If the dream is driven by power and recognition it may dissipate quickly in the face of challenge; crumble under the weight of commitment. Following the call of the Gospel requires not only response to the needs of others before your own, but laying down your life for the world around you.
What do you see in your discernment dream? What heart-held image inspires you? Are you responding to a need in your community, or do you envision crossing borders and oceans to give your life and service in missionary fields? I am perpetually motivated by the founders of my own religious community who heard there were people in need in the United States. They left their family, friends and comforts of their Bavarian homeland in 1849 to follow the call God placed in their hearts. Their lives were transformed in the moment they said “Yes” and their work of collaboration and co-creation with God began. Proclaiming your own “Yes,” waking up and making your own dream a reality, has the potential to not only change your life but also the lives of those you serve. Experience in the encounters will teach lessons far beyond any you could have ever imagined if you're open to mutual transformation.
What if your dream is the one the world needs now?
Are you willing to take the next steps in your discernment to make it a reality?