Thursday, February 18, 2016

My Testimony From the Desert

Every time I read about Queen Esther I am struck by a particular scene from the movie One Night with the King.  It's the pivotal moment of the movie and of the history of the Jewish people.  Here this young woman is faced with a difficult and terrible dilemma.  She can remain silent and watch as her people are exiled and murdered, or she can go before the King of Persia and beg for his mercy.  Either way she is in danger of death.  To go before the king unannounced in this country was to be murdered, unless the King extended his scepter to you to forgive your intrusion.

As we read that first reading we see how she prepared for this moment.  She went down prostrate upon the ground, not just her but also all those with her, and they prayed for God's guidance and protection.  She gives us an example of prayer that I think is often over looked.  She asks God to guide her speech and her actions.  She realizes that she could very well die, but even in her fear she declares that God is her only help, her only recourse.  Let me share with you that dramatic moment from the movie that always sticks in my mind:

Esther trusts the King.   She walks up the steps even with all her fear, with her anxiousness.  She takes one step at a time never doubting that God will protect her.  That even if the earthly King doesn't extend his scepter to her the great and all powerful King will.  Often times in our lives we don't understand what God has in store for us.  While we can try to guess, the truth is that we see through a veil.   God is and always will be at the core mysterious, beyond our mortal comprehension.  Abraham had to take the steps up the mountain with Isaac at his side, trusting in the King.  Noah had to load his family in an ark and watch the world be destroyed by water, trusting in the King.  Moses had to lead his people through the towering walls of water to the other side, trusting in the King. You and I, no matter what life brings, must take one step at a time... knowing that even if we don't understand, we can trust in the King.

Jesus reminds us though in the Gospel that Esther's first step was the most important one, she consulted God.  She prayed! Jesus tells us that what we ask we will be given.  He reminds us that God is our Father.  Our relationship with him is an intimate, a personal one.  He isn't just some transcendent deity who is not involved in our mortal affairs, but rather he's our daddy, our Abba.   Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asked for a loaf of bread, or a snake when he asked for a fish? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him. How often we think that way though don't we?  Our faith in God is often marred with our own fears, our own doubts.  We worry that God won't give things to us in a way that is good for us, or that he won't give it to us in a way that we will enjoy.  Yet, God always gives us that which love requires to make us grow. 

Esther was a prototype for us.  She was a glimpse of things to come.  Of another woman who stood before the King giving complete and utter trust to his plan, to his protection.  The blessed Virgin Mary.  She walked each step regardless of her fears.   She took on a role in salvation history that no other human has done, with the danger of losing her own life.  As she stood at the foot of the cross watching her only son suffer and die a horrible death, she trusted that God was giving her bread from Heaven, not a stone or snake.  Oh how we should wish to be like that!

Are you ready for this?  To march up to the doors of those doubts, those fears, those temptations and thrust them open.  To storm the castle of your life and march up the steps to the King, not in arrogance but in quiet confidence of his provision?   That's what Lent is about.  Today's readings remind us of the first pillar of Lent, prayer.  As we journey through this desert together let us pray for strength, for confidence, for trust, and maybe even more importantly: obedience.  May we through the discipline of lent grow to be more like Esther and Mary, to trust in the mysterious ways of God so fully that even threats of mortal danger will not dampen our unconditional yes to his plan.

His servant and yours, Brian

"He must increase, I must decrease."