Thursday of the First Week of Lent
Esther 12, 14-16, 23-25 and Matthew 7:7-12
In today’s first reading, we encounter Queen Esther praying for her Jewish community to be spared the fate carved out for them by the wicked scheming of Haman, vizier to the King of Persia. The Hebrew novella expresses something of the situation of the Jewish people under the Persian Empire. The author explains that if Esther approaches the King without an invitation, she might be killed. She is rightfully afraid, for she also knows that if she fails to resist the injustice about to befall her people, evil will win. Her resistance begins with an earnest prayer “from morning until evening.” She hails the God of her forefathers and foremothers, the only one to whom she can turn for help. Her prayer is of the simplest kind. She does not pray for legions of angels to rescue her. She does not pray for armies to overwhelm her enemy. She does not even pray for safe passage for her people. She prays, instead, for words. Just words. Not impressive words. Not even eloquent words. But persuasive words. She asks for God to harness the power of words in order for justice to reign. So likewise does Jesus in today’s Gospel invite us to pray, promising “good things to those who ask.” During this holy season of Lent, we are mindful of Jesus’ own prayer in the garden—when he asks for the cup of suffering to pass him. And just as God draws good out of evil—Esther’s enemy is vanquished, and God has victory over the powers of sin, death, and evil that conspire to silence the Son of God, the incarnation of Beauty, the embodiment of Divine Compassion—so, too, can we trust that evil will not have the final say in our homes, in our workplaces, in our world. Easter will come, with trumpets blasting, announcing that victory has been achieved. As the Body of Christ, we live incrementally into that victory, until the earthly Jerusalem and heavenly Jerusalem unite. So today, following Esther’s example, let our prayer likewise be for persuasive words—words that will enable us always to resist evil and to bring peace so that God’s kingdom will come, God’s will be done: on earth, as it is in heaven.
Kimberly J. Vrudny
Associate Professor of Theology