Wow factor, God factor

As multitudes of people kept their eyes on the sky on Aug. 21, I let my eyes look around. And what I saw was just as inspiring as the moon eclipsing the sun: communities joining together to experience a truly awe-inspiring event.

Parts of Missouri were in the direct path of totality, viewing a total eclipse for around 2 1/2 minutes. Rural towns expected – and received – large crowds for a brief moment of astronomical significance. Community centers and churches threw open their doors, offering food, drinks, and solar-centered activities. In cornfields and pastures, crowds gathered in a large sort of tailgate, everyone bringing their own food and drinks to share with those around them.

I was astounded. The dusk and darkness settling in and the chirp of the cicadas alerted me to the great change that was occurring. In the university setting, the darkness triggered the automatic outdoor lights around campus. Watching indoors with my dog, I could feel her body tense as darkness shrouded the earth for just a moment. The clapping, shouting and excitement in the air were still palpable in the safety of the great indoors.

As I watched a community gather, I recalled the convocation of new faculty. One of the Jesuits on campus spoke to us about the Jesuit mission of our university and alluded to the darkness that we would experience. Like the moon eclipsing the sun, immersing the earth in darkness, we all experience moments of great doubt and change. It’s important to remember that the light always wins: that light is so much greater than darkness.

Reflecting on the eclipse, I was also reminded of God’s choice of the burning bush: Moses is inspired by the strange site of a bush on fire, yet not consumed. When he goes over to the bush, God calls out and asks him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Moses’ response – “Who am I?” – is the same response that we have when we are asked by God to trust in him and overcome our obstacles.

For a few hours on Aug. 21, we set aside our differences to be inspired by something extraordinary. From an astrological sense, the eclipse meant that “Mercury is in retrograde.” But rather than looking for answers in the stars, perhaps we should reflect on the smallness of ourselves in that great moment.

As we witnessed the eclipse, did we listen to God’s voice? Did we see his hand at work? Did we see his light eclipsing the darkness of evil? Just like Moses, we can ask, who are we? The answer: we can be mighty forces of change, if we trust in God, believing that he walks beside us.

Dr. Heather Bozant Witcher can be reached at

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