Day 277: Such a Time as This
Nehemiah 9:1-38 The people of Judah gathered together on the Day of Atonement to confess their sins against the Law Ezra’s eloquent prayer recalled the goodness and faithfulness of God despite the sins and infidelities of his people. This prayer contains elements of praise, thanksgiving, contrition, and petition, which are the four major types of prayer. (CCC 2098-2099)
Ch 9:11-13 The Exodus from Egypt by way of the Red Sea and the Revelation of the Commandments to Moses on Mt. Sinai are the two most sacred events in the history of Israel. Since the liberation of the Jewish people occurred through the waters of the Red Sea, the Exodus event is a type (TYPOLOGY!!) of the salvation effected through the waters of Baptism. (CCC 1221)
Esther 4:1-17 The Jews mourned their impending fate, which prompted Mordecai to do penance. Through a messenger he asked Esther to intercede before the king on behalf of the Jews, and he even suggested that this intervention might well be the very reason she had been chosen as queen. Her intervention serves as an example of fidelity to one’s faith in the face of serious difficulties. It is important that all people stand up for the natural rights of every person. (CCC 2239, 2255)
Ch 4:15-17b Here we see a striking submission to God’s holy will and his governance of the world: Esther sought firmly to intercede for the Jews before the king, only after days of fasting and prayer. After seeking out divine assistance, she left her fate entirely in God’s hands, submitting herself to his will despite the inherent danger to her own life. (CCC 269)
Ch 13:8-18 [Greek] Ever faithful, Mordecai turned to God in prayer, an eloquent, psalm-like request that both praised and petitioned the Lord for his goodness and mercy. (CCC 2589)
Ch 14:1-19 [Greek] Esther’s own mourning and prayer expressed her great trust in God and in his promises to come to the aid of his people.
(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)
The people’s renewed enthusiasm and fidelity to the Torah culminates in a ceremonial renewal of the covenant (Neh 9).
The people gather to mourn, fast, confess their sins before God, and to recommit themselves to the covenant given to them through Moses.
Ezra’s prayer on this occasion recounts the unqualified faithfulness the Lord showed his people in the past: from the beginnings of creation, to the election of Abraham, to the Exodus from Egypt and the wanderings in the wilderness, to the possession of the land.
Though Israel has repeatedly betrayed God and broken the covenant, he steadfastly loves them both in times of chastisement and in times of mercy.
It is Israel’s proclivity to rebellion, however, that draws Ezra’s attention toward the conclusion of the prayer:
“Yet you have been just in all that has come upon us, for you have dealt faithfully and we have acted wickedly; our kings, our princes, our priests, and our fathers have not kept your law or heeded your commandments and your warnings which you gave them. They did not serve you in their kingdom, and in your great goodness which you gave them, and in the large and rich land which you set before them; and they did not turn from their wicked works.” (Neh 9:33-35)
For Ezra, the consequences of Israel’s past rebellions are still being felt in his day, and the new Exodus foretold by the great prophets is not yet fulfilled:
“Behold, we are slaves to this day; in the land that you gave to our fathers to enjoy its fruit and its good gifts, behold, we are slaves. And its rich yield goes to the kings whom you have set over us because of our sins; they have power also over our bodies and over our cattle at their pleasure, and we are in great distress.” (Neh 9:36-37)
Yet precisely “because of all this”-because their forefathers were unfaithful in the past and because the people still awaited their full redemption-the returned community commits themselves anew to the covenant, longing for the fulfillment of God’s promises toward his people.
(*Walking With God: A Journey Through The Bible by Tim Gray and Jeff Cavins)
This is a really powerful day today
Mordecai’s and Esther’s prayers are amazing
Sometimes there is humor in Scripture as well
Proverbs 21 is both humorous and true
Proverbs 21:9, “It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a contentious woman.”
So let’s be equal opportunity here….
It could be a contentious person
It could be a contentious husband
It could be a contentious wife
Someone who just wants to argue for the sake of arguing
There would be a little peace on that housetop rather than inside the house with the contentious person
IT IS FUNNY!
If we can’t laugh at that, what is wrong with us??
Now on to Nehemiah and Ezra
There are so many times that we are completely MOVED
Once again, we have the story recapitulated in Ezra’s own words
Ezra has already instructed the people of their history
He’s reminded them of what God has done
Remember yesterday he read from the books of the Law of Moses
So he is reminding them of their story, of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
Now we get to hear what Ezra says to the Lord, reminding God of the story
There is something SO POWERFUL about this
He doesn’t JUST tell the story
He says two critical things
One is, “God, this is what you have done. You have done all these good things. All these good things that have happened in our lives, they are because of you.”
That is SO IMPORTANT for us to acknowledge
WE NEED TO THANK GOD EVERY SINGLE DAY!!
THE GOOD THINGS IN OUR LIVES ARE BECAUSE OF GOD!!
EITHER DIRECTLY OR INDIRECTLY!!
The second thing is he says, “There are times when things crashed and burned. There are times when things just completely fell all around us and that was OUR FAULT.”
There is something SO POWERFUL about this
Whenever something goes WRONG, we look to BLAME SOMEONE
We ask, “Whose fault is this?”
We might be the last person we point to or look at
Some of us are oriented that way
Some of us might think, “Oh it must have been me. It always must have been me” even if it was someone else and isn’t you at all
There is a WISDOM in being able to say, “No, Lord. That was my fault. You had given me every opportunity and I didn’t take it.”
Here is Ezra in his prayer saying, “God, you did every good thing in our lives. Every bad thing that happened in our lives came from us. Because you allowed us to be delivered into the hands of our enemies.”
The third thing Ezra says, “Because you are faithful. Not because we are good. But because you are faithful, please hear our prayer.”
So we have THREE PRAYERS in today’s readings
We have Ezra’s prayer in The Book of Nehemiah
We have Mordecai’s prayer and Esther’s prayer in The Book of Esther
Mordecai is fasting and this is so good
You can blame Mordecai for the whole thing
He was the one who did not bow down before Haman
He even addresses this in his prayer, “You know all things, Lord. You know, O Lord, that I would have been willing to kiss the soles of Haman’s feet to save Israel.”
He’s basically saying, “This was not a matter of pride. This was not me taking this on myself. But I did not do this, lest I set the glory of man above the glory of God. I will not bow down to anyone but you, O Lord, my God.”
THIS IS SO GOOD!!
In a few days we will hit 1 and 2 Maccabees
There will be a number of times where the people of Israel will be VERY PROACTIVELY TEMPTED TO ABANDON THE LAWS OF GOD FOR THE LAWS OF MAN
Here is Mordecai giving VERY CLEAR INSTRUCTION with his words and how he’s living
He’s making it VERY CLEAR
“THIS WAS NOT A MATTER OF PRIDE”
“IT WAS NOT THAT I WON’T BOW DOWN TO HAMAN”
“I CAN NOT SET THE GLORY OF MAN ABOVE THE GLORY OF GOD”
So that’s one thing
So Mordecai comes to Queen Esther through a delegate and explains the situation
Esther says, “Well yeah, but like I mentioned yesterday, if you go into the king’s presence without being summoned, there is one law. That law is you are killed unless he extends the gold scepter to you.”
Mordecai responds in such a way
It is worth repeating
Esther 4:13, “Then Mordecai told them to return answer to Esther, ‘Think not that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews.”
He basically says, “Just because you are in a privileged place right now, does not mean that you will not suffer the fate of the Jews.”
Second thing he says, “For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father’s house will perish. So God is going to deliver his people. God is not going to abandon his people, this people that he saved and saved and saved again. He is not going to abandon them. It is either going to be you or someone else and God is going to deliver us that way. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
There is something SO GOOD in this
In the 2,000 year history of The Catholic Church
In the 2,000 year history of Christianity
We have people who have been given positions of POWER, WEALTH, and INFLUENCE
There was a moment
In one of those particular moments, they had to be willing to GIVE AWAY THEIR POWER
In one of those particular moments, they had to be willing to USE THE MONEY
In one of those particular moments, they had to be willing to USE THEIR INFLUENCE
AT THE RISK OF LOSING EVERYTHING
FOR THE SAKE OF JESUS
FOR THE SAKE OF OTHERS
This is how it goes
This is what our call is
We look at our POSITION
We look at our WEALTH
We look at our POSSESSIONS
We look at our INFLUENCE
THROUGH THE LENS OF, “HOW DOES GOD WANT ME TO USE THIS? It COULD be that he brought me to this moment so I can divest myself of all of it. It could be that he brought me to this moment so that I could risk all of it. It could be that God brought me to this moment so that I could give all of this away.”
WE ARE NOT OWNERS OF OUR LIVES!!
WE ARE MERELY STEWARDS!!
Every moment we get to ask, “Is it for THIS moment? Is it for such a time as THIS, that the Lord God has brought me to this place?”
So this touches Esther’s heart and she says, “Ok here’s the deal. Proclaim a fast. Because I’m going to fast. My maid servants are going to fast. Then I’ll go to the king though it is against the law and if I perish, I perish.”
WE LOVE ESTHER!!
ESTHER IS SO POWERFUL!
ESTHER IS SO BRAVE!
ESTHER IS SO COURAGEOUS!
We have Mordecai’s prayer, “I’m not doing this out of pride, but just so that Lord, you God, will be glorified.”
Esther 13:17 [Greek], “Hear my prayer, and have mercy upon your inheritance; turn our mourning into feasting, that we may live and sing praise to your name, O Lord; do not destroy the mouth of those who praise you.”
DO NOT DESTROY THE MOUTH OF THOSE WHO PRAISE YOU
Esther’s prayer in Ch 14 is very similar
“God, if you destroy us all then who will be left on earth to praise you?”
Not that God NEEDS our praise
NOT AT ALL!!
God doesn’t NEED anything
“But the nations won’t even know who you are, God. You don’t need them to know, but THEY need to know.”
Esther’s prayer is NOT JUST WORDS
She takes off all of her fine robes and clothes and everything that made her “beautiful” in the eyes of Ahasuerus, in the eyes of the world
She was also in sackcloth, ashes, and dung
She put dung in her hair
Esther reveals her heart here
We talked about this a couple of days ago
Esther wins the “Miss Persia beauty contest”
For “winning” this, Esther gets to be the sex-slave of the king
When he calls, she goes
She lives in something of luxury
SHE IS TRAPPED IN A GOLDEN CAGE AT THE BEHEST OF THIS MAN
Up to now we could say, “Wow she was made the queen! This is incredible! This is beautiful!”
If you have ONE PARTICULAR VIEW OF THIS, that is
Esther reveals her heart and says, “I hate this. Yeah I was picked, but picked for what? Picked to basically be the slave of this king. Not just any kind of slave, but a sex-slave of this king. Yes, I’m adorned in beautiful jewels and beautiful clothes. I’m kept in this beautiful palace. But you know, even God. God you know that unless I have to be in public, I don’t even wear this crown. Unless I have to be in public, I don’t wear this finery. Unless I have to play the part of the queen, I abhor this. I hate it.”
We get this picture of her heart
She is not privileged
She has been a VICTIM this whole time
THAT REALITY HAS NOT EMBITTERED HER!!
THAT REALITY HAS NOT MADE HER RESENTFUL!!
THAT REALITY HAS NOT LEFT HER POWERLESS!!
HER PRAYER IS SO POWERFUL
HER PRAYER IS SO OPEN AND HONEST BEFORE GOD
SHE IS NOT BITTER
SHE IS NOT RESENTFUL
SHE IS NOT POWERLESS
Even though in the king’s palace, she is a real victim
SHE IS NOT A POWERLESS VICTIM
In this moment she says, “I will take my life into my hands. If I perish, I perish. But I am going to trust in you, God of Abraham.”
Esther 14:19, “O God, whose might is over all, hear the voice of the despairing, and save us from the hands of evildoers. And save me from my fear!”
Is it any mystery why people LOVE Queen Esther?
To everyone on the outside, she had a life of privilege
She knows it is REALLY a life of pain
She does not give in to BITTERNESS OR RESENTMENT
SHE STILL TRUSTS IN GOD
She does not give in to feelings of POWERLESSNESS because she is a victim
She realizes that NO MATTER WHAT THE SITUATION
NO MATTER WHERE SHE IS
SHE HAS POWER BECAUSE SHE HAS THE LORD!!
WHAT A GREAT DAY!!
WHAT A GIFT OF A DAY!!
To hear Nehemiah and Esther and Proverbs
Even if we can be the contentious one in our family, WE PRAY FOR EACH OTHER
PRAY FOR FR. MIKE
Prayer by Fr. Mike: “Father in Heaven we thank you. We give you praise. You are the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob. You are the Lord of Lords. You are the King of Kings. You are the Master of All. And we belong to you. And we trust in you. And we proclaim your goodness. Our mouths declare your goodness, Lord, in this world that you created. Help us to always praise you. Help us always to declare your goodness. Help us always to give you glory and honor and worship and to thank you every day. For you, for YOU, are God. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.”