I am typically an optimistic and happy person, in large part because I refuse to watch the evening news. With its constant focus on scandals, political infighting, and violence all framed by a media-manipulated agenda, the news cycle du jour only serves to distract me from the good news of Jesus Christ, who came to break the cycle of sin and death in our world.
By no means would I suggest, however, that religion and worldly affairs are somehow immiscible like oil and water. “Civilization,” wrote Jesuit Father John Courtney Murray, “is formed by men locked together in argument.” Moreover, the institution of public discourse that develops from sustained dialogue in the public square necessarily includes the reasonable claims of religion. In particular, Catholic values and principles have served to shape western society for over two millennia. At critical junctures in the history of the world, the Church’s moral teachings have not hesitated to speak truth to power.
Our heroine this week in our message series on female heroes of the Bible, Queen Esther teaches us that a hero refuses to remain silent in the face of political abuse. “Mum” was the word for years, as Esther played the political game after being deported to a foreign country in the Babylonian Exile around the sixth century B.C. Taken into the harem of the most powerful monarch in the world, Esther concealed her Jewish identity but eventually rose to power when she pleased Xerxes, the King of Persia, more than any other woman.
Crisis soon threatened the Jewish people when an anti-Semitic madman bent on exterminating them stirred up a genocide among the pagan people living in what is now modern-day Iran. The time finally had come for the “big reveal.” Living under the thumb of a despotic king, Esther played a dangerous game in a desperate attempt to save her people. To learn more about her fascinating story, tune in to this Sunday’s message on our website.
One of the more demanding challenges from the Second Vatican Council was the call to reflect deeply on the events unfolding in the contemporary world. As the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et spes) put it, “the Church has always had the duty of scrutinizing the signs of the times and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel” (n. 4).
In our postmodern secular world today, the rapidly growing culture of religious apathy and hostility threatens to stamp out faith and the moral order almost entirely. The words used by Esther’s older cousin and foster father, Mordecai, to prompt her to action apply equally to us today: “[I]f you now remain silent, . . . you and your father’s house will perish” (Esther 4:14).
Like Esther, God has placed you in a position of great influence. Speak truth to power today, because a hero does not remain silent.
--Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
Father Roger Gustafson