Forget the dress colors. What do people see reflected in us?

Photo Caption: Whether you see this dress as white and gold or blue and black, we have a different question for all as we progress through Lent.

In a world facing terror threats, in a nation still dealing with racial unrest, and in this holy penitential season of Lent, the question seemed beyond trivial. Yet it exploded on the Internet and had everyone talking a couple of weeks ago.

What color was that dress?

A photograph of a dress posted on social media in late February prompted discussion and divided friends, family members and co-workers. Why? Some people looked at the image and saw a white and gold dress. Others looking at the same photo saw the dress as blue and black.

The speed with which the trivial matter became the most talked about story on the Internet made the dress news. Network news programs, newspapers, and talk shows sought out vision and brain experts to comment on how two people — like my wife and I — could come to such different color conclusions from the same picture.

The science behind vision is fascinating, and the answer to the dress dilemma is apparently complex, with factors ranging from age to how the dress was illuminated and the amount of light our individual eyes let in. But it’s time to turn this discussion around to faith.

We’ll pose a not so trivial question: What, or more accurately who, do people see when they look at us?

If we are having a wonderful Lent, most will somehow consistently see Jesus in us.

And we’re not talking just on Sundays, with us somehow changing colors outside of church. We shouldn’t only radiate Christ’s joy in good times, but in challenging ones as well. Jesus shouldn’t only be evident in our words, but in our actions too.

Lent is calling us to conversion, to draw nearer to Jesus inwardly so we reflect him outwardly.

A second related question is who do we see when we look at our neighbor? Again, a good Lent will help us answer “Jesus.” Do we see him in our family members? In our friends? In the stranger? In the needy? In everyone? Do we treat them differently because we see Christ in them?

Just as with the dress, how we see ourselves and others can differ by day, by mood, by degree of faith. What and who we see is affected by our backgrounds, stereotypes, and experiences. Through prayer, fasting, and acts of charity, Lent challenges us to see Jesus in ourselves and others.

If we would all come to that same conclusion, it would be no trivial matter for our families, our parishes, our communities, our nation, and our world. — Thomas J. Dermody

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