The summer days have been hot this year and not simply because of temperature and humidity. The heat comes from the amount of change that is called for in the world around us and deep within us. An invisible virus, Covid-19, spreads rampantly and wreaks havoc on gatherings, the economy, and lives. An even more insidious disease, racism, has wrought more misery for hundreds of years and can no longer be quietly ignored.

For me, the heat that exists for social change is undeniable. I see it in the faces at protests. I hear it in the stories that come across my newsfeed. I feel it in the videos of families and communities grieving the senseless loss of another life.

I also feel a deep sense of shame as I pray and reflect on what is happening. Shame is a powerful emotion and one that I need when my most calcified practices and oblivious attitudes need changing. Nothing else gets through. When I feel shame, I know it is time to make changes that lead to reconciliation. The trouble is that I will freeze or retreat from opportunities if my experience of shame is too great. But this is not a time to freeze or retreat.

Listen to the words of Courtney Ariel’s 2017 article To Our White Friends Desiring to be Allies in Sojourners Magazine:

“I believe that this is holy work, the work of justice, the pursuit of it. It doesn’t need an audience, and it will not always have one. It will happen most days in ways that are unseen. … There may not always be a practical, tangible way to pursue this work, but I believe you will know it when you meet it face-to-face.”

To know it when I see it and then to choose to act is what I desire. Ignatius of Loyola encouraged prayer that expressed desire and asked for the grace we need. Right now the graces I ask for are strength and courage. Strength to remain uncomfortable and courage to engage in the opportunities that help shift my perspective and influence our society away from the toxicity of racism.

In God’s Peace,

Dan Johnson
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