Msgr. Charles Pope is currently a dean and pastor in the Archdiocese of Washington, DC, where he has served on the Priest Council, the College of Consultors, and the Priest Personnel Board. Along with publishing a daily blog at the Archdiocese of Washington website, he has written in pastoral journals, conducted numerous retreats for priests and lay faithful, and has also conducted weekly Bible studies in the U.S. Congress and the White House. He was named a Monsignor in 2005.
There is a brief passage in the Book of Esther that serves as reminder to Catholic and other political leaders, judges, and other high officials and leaders, (not to exclude those of the clerical and religious ranks in the Church). For indeed, all who attain to higher leadership will one day render an account to the Lord for their leadership.
The fundamental warning of this text from Esther is not to forget who we are and whose we are and that God has placed Catholic leaders in higher authority to advance the Kingdom of God not our own standing.
Let’s look to the text from Esther recalling that Esther had become queen in the court of the Persian King Xerxes. During this period a grave threat came upon the Jewish people who were slated for genocide by the Xerxes’ assistant Haman. Esther’s uncle Mordecai sends word to her exhorting her to do what is right even if she dies for it. Let’s apply it to today: The text from Esther is in bold, black, italics. My commentary follows each excerpt.
“Remember the days of your lowly estate, when you were brought up in my charge; for Haman, who is second to the king, has asked for our death. Invoke the Lord and speak to the king for us: save us from death.”
In our own day there are grave threats faced by God’s people. Children are aborted by the millions. Euthanasia bills are proceeding through legislatures. And while the proponents extol the “right to die,” experience has shown elsewhere that the right to die becomes the duty to die. Here is a grave threat to elderly, those with disabilities, and chronic illnesses.
Add to these direct threats against life, the attack on the meaning of human sexuality and the attack on the family which threaten life in its origins and in its nurturance and maturity.
To those who are leaders, to Catholic political leaders, judges and all in positions of influence must go the same message: “Invoke the Lord…speak and act to save others from this deadly threat! Do not forget your own lowly estate and think that your power can shield you from the consequences of failing to speak and act. Not only may your own life be one day threatened, but you will surely appear before the judge of the living and the dead to answer for what you do or fail to do.”
… Esther replied…. “All the servants of the king and the people of his provinces know that any man or woman who goes to the king in the inner court without being summoned, suffers the automatic penalty of death, unless the king extends to him the golden scepter, thus sparing his life. Now as for me, I have not been summoned to the king for thirty days.”
Esther’s immediate response is fear. Perhaps she will be killed if she speaks up. She also protests (wrongly) that she is powerless.
And so also today, many political and civic leaders fearfully fret over their possible political death. “Job-1” seems to be for them to survive.
There are times to pick one’s battles and live to fight another day. But in terms of the life issues that day seems never to come for some Catholics in high places. The fight is never engaged, or even worse they are on the wrong side altogether. The main focus for too many Catholic leaders seems more their political survival than the lives of infants, the elderly or the disabled. Political advancement is more important that the health of the family and issues related to traditional marriage.
Many protest they are powerless since the people have spoken or something is “the law of the land.” Still others indicate they do not wish to “impose” their religious views on others. Meanwhile our opponents boldly act and seem little dominated by similar fears of their own political death or of imposing their views on others. They unlike Catholic Politicians and leaders, have built political consensus for the things that matter to them and have sought to lead public opion and form it, not just follow it. Oh for similar courage among Catholic leaders. For the sons of this world are more crafty in dealing with their own than are the sons of light. (Lk 16:8).
When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, he had this reply brought to her: “Do not imagine that because you are in the king’s palace, you alone of all the Jews will escape. Even if you now remain silent, relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from another source; but you and your father’s house will perish. Who knows but that it was for a time like this that you obtained the royal dignity?”
As we can see, Mordecai will have none of Esther’s protests or fears. She needs to find a good fight and get in it. And God is going to win, so she might as well choose the winning side. Mordecai also admonishes her that it is just for times like these that God puts his people in place to make a difference. This matter brooks no delay, she must choose to do what is right, no matter the cost.
And thus should Catholics political leaders and legislators must decide if their short term political future is more important than their eternal destiny. They ought not to overlook the fact that God has them there for a reason and they will answer for which team they chose to play.
Only one team is going to win, God’s team. This victory in question is not about November, it is about eternity.
Mordecai’s words ought to echo in the heart and mind of every dissenting Catholic politician or leader who advances a pro-abortion, pro-death agendas or refuses to fight them. Mordecai says to them, simply: “Do not imagine you will escape…If you remain silent, you and your house will perish.”
Abortion and Euthanasia especially are decisive issues not only for our culture but for you and the day of your judgment. Traditional Marriage and issues related to human sexuality are also crucial to our future.
Choose sides considering more than next November, but more so, your day of judgment. Do not neglect to consider also as Mordecai says that it was for a time like this that God may well have raised you to leadership! What will you do? Remember, to whom much is given, much is expected.
Esther sent back to Mordecai the response: “Go and assemble all the Jews who are in Susa; fast on my behalf, all of you, not eating or drinking, night or day, for three days. I and my maids will also fast in the same way. Thus prepared, I will go to the king, contrary to the law. If I perish, I perish!” Mordecai went away and did exactly as Esther had commanded. (Esther 4:1-16)
Yes! Esther has found a good fight and so is going to engage the battle! If she perishes, so be it.
There are just times when other people and the common good are more important than “me.”
What will Catholic politicians decide? Will they chose the right side of the epic battle for life, family and sexuality? Will they seek to build support as Esther instructed Mordecai to do? Will they risk all saying: “If I perish, I perish!” Well, their decision will tend to rest upon which day the focus: the first Tuesday in November, or Judgment Day.
We will all answer for our stance on the most crucial moral questions of our day. There are no exceptions, For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or evil (2 Cor 5:10).
Yes here is a strong warning for us all from the Book of Esther. It is especially a warning for Catholic and Christian legislators, political leaders, judges and cultural leaders (to include leaders in the Church: Bishops, priests, deacons and religious).
St. Augustine wrote to Proba: And as for our saying: Your kingdom come, it will surely come whether we will it or not. But we are stirring up our desires for the kingdom so that it can come to us and we can deserve to reign there. Are we worthy of Jesus Christ, or just the party bosses and the whims of the masses?