I have received spiritual direction for over thirty years. Each of my spiritual director’s guidance has had the same emphasis: God is with us always and in all circumstances. Though I may not perceive God’s presence, that does not mean that God is not with me.
The book of Esther reminds us of this eternal truth. God is present through times of trial and through people who are willing to choose life. Mordecai, the Jewish sage close to King Ahasuerus, challenges Haman’s plot to annihilate the Jewish people. Queen Esther, who hid her Jewish identity from Ahasuerus, wisely uses her royal status to champion her people. God’s desire that we choose life over death lives in these two. Even Ahasuerus creates safeguards for the Jews after Esther exposes Haman’s plot.
Esther’s story is fraught with abuse of power, consuming greed, and violent intent. Queen Esther’s history reminds us that transformation often occurs through human agents. At first glance, neither Mordecai nor Esther seem able to stop Haman’s plot. Yet they find a way to create the moment for Ahasuerus to choose life. Inspired and given strength to act by God, Mordecai and Esther upend Haman’s machinations.
The mystery of transformation lies within this story—a series of choices on behalf of life and justice. A time of distress becomes a holiday. A celebration of abundant life unfolds, and the celebration of God’s abundance becomes a call to celebrate and share our abundance with the poor. We are called to bring God’s presence and justice into this world.
God of hope, lead us to bring your presence to others out of our abundance. May we always choose life and justice. Amen.
The Jewish people have faced possible destruction numerous times. The story begins not with the Holocaust in Europe but far back in history during the time of Esther. The wicked Haman plots to wipe out God’s people, but God saves the people through Esther’s courage. The psalmist praises God for this kind of salvation from seemingly impossible circumstances. Although we may not face genocide, we have our own struggles. James encourages us to pray with faith, believing that God can and will answer. Our prayers are powerful, James assures us. Jesus teaches us the importance of letting nothing stand between God and us. Using vivid hyperbole, he admonishes us to put the pursuit of God above everything else and to support others in that same pursuit.
• Read Esther 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22. What traditions extend your memory?
• Read Psalm 124. God created heaven and earth. How do you choose to be on God’s side, the side of creation?
• Read James 5:13-20. When has God’s abiding presence allowed you to experience some sense of cheer despite your suffering?
• Read Mark 9:38-50. Whoever is not against you is for you. How can you share God’s love with those outside your inner circle?
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