May 19, 2023

Worship and Evangelization Outreach / Jennifer Burger

See the light to encounter Jesus in every detail of life

Jennifer BurgerI was recently walking the trails at Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House in Indianapolis, and the sunlight caught my attention through the leaves. I looked up and saw a Sycamore tree towering above the canopy of green, its white upper branches reaching upward to the blue sky.

I love Sycamore trees. I always look for them as I drive along Fall Creek Road in Indianapolis, especially in wintertime when their alabaster limbs seem to glow in contrast to the colorless landscape. If not for their height and from the vantage point of being at a distance, it is easy to miss them this time of the year. So it is a wonder that this particular tree caught my attention at all, if not for the sunlight that moved my gaze in that direction.

This encounter reminded me of the saying, “You can’t see the forest through the trees,” which is how many of us go through life—getting caught up in the details so that we can’t see the bigger picture. However on this day, the encounter was in the detail of this tree among the forest, which for me was an invitation to stay for a moment and study this beautiful creation.

One of the most notable characteristics of a sycamore tree is its bark. At the bottom of its trunk, the bark is brown, and unless you know what you are looking for, you might not notice it as being different than any other tree. Above this section, you will see patches of brown, green, gray and white that resemble army camouflage. And at the top of the tree, its branches herald pure white as they spread out toward the heavens.

I stood in awe, asking God what he was saying to me, and the words of the Psalmist came to mind, “They speak of the glory of your reign and tell of your great works” (Ps 145:11). This tree speaks to me of Christ, and I believe it has a message for us all:

“How do we encounter Christ?” Do we have the awareness to respond to God in such a way that we can stand before Christ? Do we stand in awe? What do we see? During Mass, do we remain at “ground level,” unmoved by the Eucharist as we see nothing out of the ordinary? Or do we stop our gaze, aware that the Eucharist is important, but lose sight amid the “camouflage” of distractions around us or within us? Or do we look up at the elevated Eucharist above the altar and see the glory of God, brilliant in this white host, the Risen Christ?

Encountering Jesus is an extraordinary experience, and it might be easy to miss this due to his “hidden” nature. As we have been reading in the Gospel of John this month, even the first Apostles and those who followed Jesus seemed to have struggled with this at times. But like them, orientating our hearts and minds heavenward in the Resurrection, we find he is ever-present.

In Christ, we see the forest and the trees, for he is the” bigger picture”—and he is in every detail of our lives!

As we head into the parish phase of the National Eucharistic Revival next month, may God show you the light to an encounter with Christ—the true presence! Let us make it personal and look up to our Lord in awe and in gratitude for the gift of the Eucharist!

(Jennifer Burger is program manager at Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House in Indianapolis.) †

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