In the early 1990s, my sister lived in New Zealand and worked for a traveling science roadshow. We talked on the phone rarely. It was too expensive, and the voice delay on oversea phone calls was really frustrating. My sister began sending postcards to keep us current on her exciting adventure. One postcard stands out in my memory from that era. On the front of the postcard, there was a stereogram, a hidden 3-D picture wrapped in a blue-green 2-D design. The instructions on the postcard said to hold the image right up to your nose and slowly pull the picture away from your face. The reader was told to stare through the picture rather than try to focus on the 2-D pattern. “Let your eyes go beyond the obvious image, and you will begin to see the hidden image,” the footnote read.
I raised the card to my nose and tried it about ten times. My children figured it out almost immediately.
“I give up. I can’t see a thing!” I tossed the card on the table and my son picked it up, imploring me to give it another try.
“You have to let it happen, Mom. Don’t look at it. Kind of let your eyes go out of focus. And fight it when your eyes want to look at the design. You’ll never see it that way. The picture is deeper. Not here.” He rubbed the palm of his hand across the postcard. “It’s there.” He took his right index finger and pointed down to the postcard in his left hand. When his finger touched the picture, he slid it around the side of the picture, and kept on pointing to an imaginary place beyond.
He handed the card to me, and I took it reluctantly. I wasn’t sure what I was doing, but I thought about what my son had said and gave it one last serious effort.
And suddenly, I saw it. Three dolphins. Three 3-D dolphins in a row. It was SO cool.
There are times when the indelible mark of God on the lives of those around us can seem as elusive as the 3-D picture hidden in a stereogram. We don’t see Christ in our neighbor. We don’t see Christ in the poor. We don’t see Christ in the priest.
We just see a rude neighbor. A guy on the side of the road with a sign. A man with foibles like everyone else who sometimes wears a stole.
God tells us to look closer. No, not at the surface. Don’t fixate on the outward patterns. You’ll never see what lies beneath that way. Jesus is there, and you can see him if you let yourself get past the surface image.
He’s there, in the eyes of your neighbor.
He’s there, in the eyes of the poor, the sick, the imprisoned, the immigrant.
He’s there in the ordained one. A priest forever. Marked with God’s indelible imprint.
Sometimes, the pattern on the surface throws us off. We become frustrated by what we see. God tells us to look a little deeper. Give it another try. True identity is sometimes hidden. Cloaked in external trappings.
And if we can begin to see Jesus Christ hidden in the faces around us, maybe we can begin to see Our Lord hidden under the appearance of bread and wine.
Fight it when your eyes want to look at the design. You’ll never see Him that way. Christ is deeper. He’s there.
No longer bread.
No longer wine.
Soon, we enter the “Year of Faith.” It’s time to put on the eyes of faith and see Jesus Christ.