This reflection obliquely touches on St. John Bosco, Father and Teacher of Youth, whose relics are now making a tour of the Salesian world. I would like to share the official MTV and official song to commemorate this once-in-a-lifetime event for the young, for the world, for us who are willing to dream and ready to pay the price for that dream.

4th Sunday of Advent (A)
December 19, 2010

You all have probably heard about it, read it, or got to know about it somehow … the grisly, gruesome deed … the cold-blooded murder of a 28 year-old husband and father of four young children, apparently planned and plotted and perpetrated by someone so close, so unexpected, so unbelievably on intimate footing with him, for years!

Planned for, plotted, and perpetrated … It apparently took her only a few months to plan for, with a little help from someone who stood to gain from it all. The news of the cold-blooded – if, so shoddily planned – murder of this young man out in Las Vegas, is a shuddering piece of news, and a sobering thought for each one of us, myself included, who happens now to live just a few miles away from where he grew up.

Being no spring chicken anymore, I know a little about plans being hatched, and projects eventually seeing the light of day. I know from experience, and can speak a little about dreams and visions coming to full bloom, when one has, not only the blueprint in hand, but also the grit and determination at hand, to see through to their completion and eventual fruition.

I know it from first-hand experience …

My father came from a poor family of two boys. At age 11, his only younger brother died, ravaged by typhoid fever. At that age, the two brothers already shared a dream. In the little plot of land their parents owned, they dreamt of something bigger than their puny little bodies could possibly attain. But not quite adolescents yet, they started planting coffee. My father not only managed to make them grow. He actually became a little expert on how to care for them and make them bear fruit in plenty.  From what I know, years later when we were growing up, those coffee trees they planted when they were just innocent play-age kids, were what eventually tided us over and sent us all to school.

I know it from second-hand experience and from training …

When I got to know Don Bosco, the particular detail that remained etched in my mind was the very same concept of “dreams” becoming reality. In his modesty and simplicity, he spoke of what seemed like “heavenly visions” as simply “dreams.” But it was a particular dream at nine years old that sent him soaring to the heights of holiness. He dreamt of “wolves becoming sheep, and shepherds who guard and never sleep.” That dream is now reality in over 130 countries all over the world!

All of us, who turn into wide-eyed and dreamy little kids on Christmas day, have experienced a little about dreaming and making what we dream for a reality. All of us can probably tell a story or two about people who “conceived,” “bore” and finally “named” the dream that has become real.

I cannot forget our teacher in Pilipino when I was but a 16 year-old freshman in college. His classes were not just lessons on making well-crafted sentences and verses in Pilipino. His sessions were all one seamless and telling lesson on life, on conjuring up lofty dreams, and on the capacity to pay the price for those dreams. Mr. Florentino Gecolea, who came from a very poor family himself, shared with us not only his literary prowess in our own native language, but his “life technology.” As he taught us the beauty of prose and the nobility of poetry, our hearts were touched by his life-story. It was one of “dreaming” and aiming high, and being ready to work hard for it, neatly summed up in a very touching and moving poem that he dedicated to us, prior to his leaving for good for Canada … “Awit ng Makahiya.”

I cannot forget too, one of my teachers in Speechpower back in the day. I cannot recall her name, but I do remember what she shared with us … how she brought herself all through the public school system, and made it to where she was then, all on the basis of a childhood dream.

I now go to the point of this reflection. In this fourth Sunday of Advent, our thoughts are focused on one who “conceived,” and “bore a Son” and eventually “named” Him Emmanuel. I speak about Mary, who dreamt along with God, and who paid a handsome price for it. She conceived. She bore. And her bearing the child in her womb for nine months and introducing him to the world, caused her untold pain. In fact, sorrow, just like a sword, broke her heart and tore it apart. Only he or she who is willing to bear all, can be worthy of “naming” what that pain has brought into the light of day.

I bear witness to the power of dreams and their concomitant power to conceive, and bear, and name. I saw it from both ends: the power to make something happen as when criminals hatch up a plan, plot for it, and execute it. Selfish and greed-motivated as they are, the focus and the energy put into it can literally move mountains and cause untold havoc to the hapless victims, as happened in the story I told you above.

But I bear witness, too, to the overriding power of a dream, that rides on, and jibes, with God’s dream – all for the good of others, all for the sake of people other than oneself. That was my father’s dream. That was Don Bosco’s dream at nine. That was my two teachers’ dream, who both refused to be victims of circumstances, victims of their parents’ poverty, and victims of their lack of capacity to pull themselves up from their bootstraps.

Advent, so we were told repeatedly, is a time of waiting. But let me qualify that. It is not empty waiting. It has nothing to do with futile twiddling of thumbs, waiting for something to happen. It has to do with pregnant waiting. It is “conceiving.” It means “bearing” … paying the price for what you expect and actively wait for. It has to do with “naming” – naming what one needs to get out of the way; naming what one needs to do “to fill in the valleys, and straighten the highways” for the Lord, who is coming … as sure as night follows day … as sure as the lessons that life has taught me so far … as certain as the meaning of His name: Emmanuel – God is with us!