We Were Made for a Time Such as This
Esther with her husband King Xerxes and adopted farther Mordechai
By Marisa Vertrees
When we think of social justice texts in the Bible, there are a few standards we often turn to instructing us how to care for others. The Beatitudes come up often, as does the story of the Last Judgment. Or perhaps we think of the Old Testament prophets such as Micah or Amos. But when I consider what we are called to do, I turn to the Book of Esther.
Esther was a Jewish woman who, through the assistance of her adopted father, Mordechai, rose up to be a Queen of Persia, the wife of King Xerxes, who had ordered that all of the Jews be killed. When Esther’s father, Mordechai, learned of this decree, he begged Esther to go to Xerxes and have him rescind the order. Esther was fearful as no one was supposed to go before the king without being summoned, but Mordechai persisted saying, “Who knows but that you have been made queen for a time such as this.” (Esther 4:14) Because of her, the Jews were spared, and her story is celebrated every year in the Jewish holiday of Purim.
Esther is the story of what one person can accomplish when they advocate for what they believe in. Esther was not a king or a judge, she was not a rule maker in her own right. But she was someone who had the ear of the king, someone who still had the power to make change—one of the few people who did at that time. And despite her fear of the consequences, she used that power. She recognized that she was put in that rare position of power for a time such as this.
We, all of us in the United States, have that power. We are fortunate enough to have been born into the wealthiest and most powerful country in the world. A country that was built by and for immigrants. A country that can currently take in refugees, a country that can afford to welcome the stranger, and a country that can contribute to humane refugee policies around the world. A country that has been a world leader in sheltering others. Indeed, if we cannot afford to help those who are persecuted, then who can? And who will?
And, amazingly, in this powerful country, each of us as individuals have the power to go before our own elected officials and ask for change.
This is a right that we often take for granted, but people have fought and died for this right. People are fleeing their countries for the lack of such a right. But we have it. We have the ability to go before leaders and demand change. To stand up for those who do not have the right to ask for help for themselves. To speak up for the persecuted. And many of us are only here because our own parents or grandparents were immigrants but took risks to put us in this position. Now it is our turn to use this position to speak up for today’s immigrants.
As Christians, we are told that we must help the stranger and love our neighbor. We must feed the hungry, clothe the naked and visit the prisoner. The individual acts of mercy and of charity the Bible calls us to we often remember. But that isn’t enough. We cannot forget the story of Esther.
We are called to charity, this is true, but we are called to more. We are called to speak up for justice.
And in the United States we have that right, a right that many people do not, and so it is even more important. We have to visit our members of Congress and our elected officials to call on them to do the right thing. By virtue of being citizens in a country that can take in refugees and immigrants, that can help others, that has that power, we were made for a time such as this.
By being born in a country where we can go before our leaders, even though we may be afraid, in a country where we can speak to those with the power to make change, to speak on behalf of the immigrant, of the stranger, of the persecuted. Each and every one of us must be an advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves. We were made for a time such as this.
*Marisa is the Campaign Manager for English Speaking Countries for the Global Catholic Climate Movement.*
**Weekly Reflection on Justice is produced by the Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach staff, volunteers, interns, Columban parishioners, Columban Missionaries, and friends of the Columbans. We hope these reflections help to guide you in your own spiritual journey working toward justice, peace, and the integrity of creation.**