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By Sister Marietta Fahey, SHF

So what is this about burning bushes and fig trees in the middle of this Lenten journey?

What do they have to do with change of heart and faithfulness to the Gospel as we follow Jesus on this journey?

Burning bushes:  moments of surprise after which we are not the same!   Moments of surprise that break into our ordinary day,  or into an unbearable day when we don’t know how we will find the next step, let alone take it!    Moments  of surprise when we “see” or “hear” something as never before and we then have a new knowing, a deep truth now with power to sustain us.    This “something new”  deepens our faith, enlivens our hope and fires our love and even our body’s energy and our commitment to stay the course.

Moses:   tending Jethro’s flocks (his father-in-law) :  nothing  too remarkable about that!

While tending the flock he sees ”burning bush” – is attracted…draws close…experiences something about who he is, what he is being called to, how he will be sustained in relationship with the One who calls.     Moses is changed.  His life path is changed.  He faces obstacles, conflict, unknowing.    The burning bush experience sustains him through the gathering and guiding the people toward the Promised Land which he glimpsed afar off but never entered himself. 

Yes, a surprising moment sustained him into the future!

“In the midst of the thorns, he must have learned marvelous things, for it was these things that gave him courage to do what he did for the people of Israel.”    (unknown source)

Take a moment and recall one of these moments in your own life.  What surprised you?

What did you experience?  What was different in you afterward?  Even today in what way does that surprising experience sustain you?

In this very chapel in the 70’s I had just received Communion and the doorbell rang!  I was immediately annoyed!   Then I was surprised as the words arose from deep inside of me:   INTERRUPTION or INCARNATION?   Right away I knew that in God’s plan every moment is INCARNATION!   This changed me and continues to sustain me  especially when things don’t go my way, get messy or feel stuck.

So what is it about the fig tree?     Jesus’ parable throws light on the experience of being in the middle of something…not seeing the outcome. The landowner looking for fruit says: cut the tree down, its not bearing fruit. The gardener has a different take on what is happening:  Give it a year.  I will cultivate, tend. We will see and then decide. Two different perspectives that could easily erupt into anger and division.

So, what did the gardener “see”, believe?   What from his past experience convinced him that there was great possibility here, even before any evidence of fruit?  The gardener’s knowing, believing in potential, his readiness to cultivate and work with the situation were evident and motivated him to speak and sustained him.

So, the burning bush and the fig tree are surprising moments that change and sustain us even before we reach the final outcome. Surprising moments when Spirit breaks into our life and changes our heart.   These surprises sustain us, individually and collectively, all the way whether we see the “fruit” or not.      

In a letter to a friend, Thomas Merton advised:

“Do not depend on the hope of results … you may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect.  As you get used to this idea you start more and more to concentrate not on the results, but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself … You gradually struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people … In the end, it is the reality of personal relationships that saves everything.”


* The Impossible Will Take A Little While, p. 350

Mary’s experience echoes our own”

 “Just as we hold our hands cupped around our own glimmering share of the paschal fire, she held her heart cupped around the mystery of God dwelling among us, her reflections keeping the Light aglow, sustaining her through the unremarkable as well as the unbearable”
– Michelle Francl-Donnay quoted in Give Us This Day      1-1-13


Take time to recall surprises that have changed and sustained you through your life and even now today keep light and Life alive in you!.

Our Communion song today:   We Come to Tell Our Story…. sometime this week, share your story of a surprising moment , what you “saw”, learned that changed you then and sustains you even now!