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Finding Color in the Darkness

March 14, 2021   Fourth Sunday of Lent Year B (Lectionary: 32)

Reading I   2 Chr 36:14-16, 19-23
In those days, all the princes of Judah, the priests, and the people
added infidelity to infidelity,
practicing all the abominations of the nations
and polluting the LORD’s temple
which he had consecrated in Jerusalem.

Early and often did the LORD, the God of their fathers,
send his messengers to them,
for he had compassion on his people and his dwelling place.
But they mocked the messengers of God,
despised his warnings, and scoffed at his prophets,
until the anger of the LORD against his people was so inflamed
that there was no remedy.
Their enemies burnt the house of God,
tore down the walls of Jerusalem,
set all its palaces afire,
and destroyed all its precious objects.
Those who escaped the sword were carried captive to Babylon,
where they became servants of the king of the Chaldeans and his sons
until the kingdom of the Persians came to power.
All this was to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah:
“Until the land has retrieved its lost sabbaths,
during all the time it lies waste it shall have rest
while seventy years are fulfilled.”

In the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia,
in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah,
the LORD inspired King Cyrus of Persia
to issue this proclamation throughout his kingdom,
both by word of mouth and in writing:
“Thus says Cyrus, king of Persia:
All the kingdoms of the earth
the LORD, the God of heaven, has given to me,
and he has also charged me to build him a house
in Jerusalem, which is in Judah.
Whoever, therefore, among you belongs to any part of his people,
let him go up, and may his God be with him!”

Responsorial Psalm   137:1-2, 3, 4-5, 6
R. (6ab) Let my tongue be silenced, if I ever forget you!
By the streams of Babylon
we sat and wept
when we remembered Zion.
On the aspens of that land
we hung up our harps.
R. Let my tongue be silenced, if I ever forget you!
For there our captors asked of us
the lyrics of our songs,
And our despoilers urged us to be joyous:
“Sing for us the songs of Zion!”
R. Let my tongue be silenced, if I ever forget you!
How could we sing a song of the LORD
in a foreign land?
If I forget you, Jerusalem,
may my right hand be forgotten!
R. Let my tongue be silenced, if I ever forget you!
May my tongue cleave to my palate
if I remember you not,
If I place not Jerusalem
ahead of my joy.
R. Let my tongue be silenced, if I ever forget you!

Reading II   Eph 2:4-10
Brothers and sisters:
God, who is rich in mercy,
because of the great love he had for us,
even when we were dead in our transgressions,
brought us to life with Christ — by grace you have been saved —,
raised us up with him,
and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus,
that in the ages to come
He might show the immeasurable riches of his grace
in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
For by grace you have been saved through faith,
and this is not from you; it is the gift of God;
it is not from works, so no one may boast.
For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works
that God has prepared in advance,
that we should live in them

Verse Before the Gospel   Jn 3:16
God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,
so everyone who believes in him might have eternal life.

Gospel   Jn 3:14-21
Jesus said to Nicodemus:
“Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,
so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might not perish
but might have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but that the world might be saved through him.
Whoever believes in him will not be condemned,
but whoever does not believe has already been condemned,
because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
And this is the verdict,
that the light came into the world,
but people preferred darkness to light,
because their works were evil.
For everyone who does wicked things hates the light
and does not come toward the light,
so that his works might not be exposed.
But whoever lives the truth comes to the light,
so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.

By Maddy Bass 

I remember watching The Wizard of Oz for the first time, sitting on my grandparents’ family room couch while they reminisced on the profound impact color had on television. Dorothy’s small town in Kansas that was struck by a tornado is suddenly transformed into this technicolor wonderland. Even the evilest of characters, the wicked witch of the West, disguises herself in color despite her attempts to sabotage Dorothy’s life and friends. The actual wizard appears to be magical and spectacular, but his appearance is just a bright façade to hide his true identity and personhood. 

Spoiler: it was just a dream and Dorothy’s life resumes to colorlessness. Yet somehow, that black and white world feels so simple and quiet compared to the colorful land of Oz. No disguises. No cloudy discernment of good versus evil. Nothing is fake. Her family is safe, and everything is back to normal. 

I sometimes wish that real-world discernment was black and white.

When I first came to college, I felt like Dorothy. I came out of a place of darkness into a dream of color where everything looked good and desirable. There was an ease to which I could maneuver my way through different lifestyles and communities. I could dip in and out of phases depending on my mood, and try on friends just for fun without questioning the values (or virtues) of those relationships. The excitement of college. 

At the end of the day, though, I was deeply unsatisfied. My worth fell into my reputation on campus and my deep desire to feel seen, but I rarely brought those desires to Jesus Himself.  My attendance at Mass lessened. The deconstruction of my faith increased.

I became a product of my own truth rather than the Truth the Lord was calling me toward.

I feared coming to God because I feared to face the reality that I was riding society’s bandwagon and living a mediocre life that not only lacked discernment, but lacked a love of God’s mercy and truth. 

In the Gospel today, I hear Christ very clearly say to me, “I have created good works in you. Come into the light and see for yourself.” 

Despite my attempts to refute this truth, I understand that the road of the Resurrection must go without my rose-colored glasses. I am called to see the world for what it is -- even when it feels far from the Truth -- and learn by the way of the saints to stay close to Christ in the sacraments. This is the ultimate invitation: to step out of blindness, darkness, and mediocrity. My belief in Christ’s good works will enable me to see this colorful life as a gift that allows me to freely choose and freely seek His guidance and grace. 

If God created the world in black and white, it wouldn’t just be boring; it would be graceless. 

Even when I sway in faith, the little glimmers of grace that God hands out uniquely for me serves as a reminder that He really is rich in mercy, and that the life of freedom He created for us is an opportunity, not an obstacle, to rise again with Him.

 ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

Maddy Bass is a simple gal with a big childlike heart. As a full-time Communication Studies student at the University of San Diego, with a passion for social and restorative justice, she strives to be a bearer of the Good News in the digital age. She is always on the hunt for stories worth sharing, underrated coffee shops, thrift store deals, and opportunities to be intentional. Find out more about her here.

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