“What do you think is going to happen?”
Almost every conversation I’ve had over the past months presents this question. Depending on the context, the question could refer to concerns about amassing students, faculty, and staff during a global pandemic. Or it could refer to local, national, and federal responses to a reckoning with racism and police brutality. Or—and for me this is the heaviest one to ponder—it could refer to the presidential election this year.
Regardless of the context, the question is centered around how not knowing can be terrifying. Especially when we are navigating issues that impact our lives. This is when, for me, being hopeful and faithful becomes difficult. How do I, we, remain hopeful and faithful as we continue to see COVID-19 cases rise? How do I, we, remain hopeful and faithful while at the time I am writing this, the officers that killed Breonna Taylor have not been arrested? How do I, we, remain hopeful and faithful knowing that there is a chance that a presidential re-election is possible? God asks us to be hopeful and faithful, but when you sit in a deserted place with family, friends, and strangers and there is no “food”…what do you do?
The people in that deserted place in yesterday’s Gospel did not know what was going to happen, but they were fed. The disciples did not know how they were going to feed those people, but they witnessed a miracle. Jesus, after hearing about his cousin’s death, probably did not think he had the capacity to care for a large crowd—but he cured and fed those gathered.
God does not ask us to know what will happen. God asks us to remember the covenant—that we cannot be separated from God’s love. In a way this frees us to focus on what is truly in our control.
No matter how bleak the situation, no matter how much food is left, no matter the pain of mourning, God’s love exists. It is with this love that we confidently, firmly, and compassionately forge forward with justice, assemble community, protect the vulnerable, hold accountable those in power, and build the Kingdom of God.
Justin T. White is a theology teacher at Loyola Blakefield in Towson, Maryland.