Sorry, you need to enable JavaScript to visit this website.

Breath of the Spirit: Love in Light and Darkness

If one is not careful, they can read Jesus’ words to Nicodemus as if light and darkness were enemies. Today’s reflection reminds us, however, that those two realities are interdependent. We cannot fully experience one without the other. And Love is with us us—no matter light or shadows that mark our view.

March 10, 2024: Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year B

2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23

Psalm 137:1-6

Ephesians 2:4-10

John 3:14-21

Love in Light and Darkness

A reflection by Catherine Buck

Ardos was the best dog. I read somewhere on the internet that everyone thinks this about their dogs, and that all of us are right.

She was in my life for just over a year, but she was raised by my partner, Lizzie, for more than thirteen. She developed an aggressive tumor in her final months, and this Lent, we made the wrenching decision to say goodbye. She passed at home in Lizzie’s arms, under the care of a kind doctor. In the days before, we celebrated her life with burgers, bacon, and one last walk in the sun.

This experience shapes my understanding of this week’s readings, and all that I’m learning about faith, mercy, salvation, and love.

The idea, raised in Ephesians 2:4-10, that we are saved by grace, rather than works, is familiar to anyone who has experienced the unconditional love of a dog. Eternal life, as described in John 3:14-21, has a different resonance to me now that I’ve just witnessed this being whom I love in her final earthly moments. The passage from the Second Book of Chronicles is full of grief, fear of the unknown—and the promise of a joyful return.

We tell the stories of suffering and loss every Lent, and go into a ritual of remembering, knowing it will lead to Good Friday—and then to Easter. But we must experience death to truly be prepared for new life. Lizzie and I brought Ardos into our home when she was already twelve, after an epic 1,000-mile road trip from Louisiana to New Jersey. No dogs live forever, and some part of me must have known that I was setting myself up for heartbreak.

I’ve been thinking, also, of a line from the musical Hadestown—a retelling of the Greek myth of Orpheyus and Euridyce. It recounts the tragic story, then remarks that everyone in the audience knew how it would end, but we came to see it anyway. Hadestown notes the story is told, again and again, despite the pain in the ending. So too we all carry on, loving those we will lose, telling stories of pain, and doing the best that we can with the time that we have.

I’m reminded this week of all the people who work towards a better world, knowing that the odds are ever stacked against them, knowing that the stories they share will often end in grief. I’m continually inspired by those that go on despite this, that tell of different ways to love, to live, and to be. I’m comforted by the belief that we deserve this goodness simply for being alive. Everyone does.

One backdrop to this story is that Lizzie and I are planning our wedding: the next chapter of a journey that started with Dignity New York. Being with her in the experience of losing Ardos has made me love her even more. As difficult as it’s been, it’s also been a powerful time of togetherness, and a further testament to the essential goodness of LGBTQIA+ relationships (and any authentic loving). She brings me light.

As we work through grief together, I’m aiming to enjoy the cheeseburgers of life while I have them, appreciate the warmth that says spring is coming, and to try to meet the people around me as Ardos did: with openness and enthusiasm, even when they hadn’t done anything in particular to deserve it. 

I hope to carry this way of being with me. I hope to keep telling stories that are both painful and joyful, and to walk the road with my community through seasons of hardship and joy on our way to Easter—and all the Easters that yet await us.

Catherine Buck is a writer and educator from New Jersey. Catherine was a pilgrim at World Youth Day in Panama in 2019 as part of the Equally Blessed coalition. She also participated in DignityUSA's pilgrimage to World Youth Day in Portugal in 2023. She lives in Jersey City with her partner who she met though Dignity New York.