“Who knows—perhaps it was for a time like this that you became queen?” (Esther 4:14)
The book Esther tells the story of a Jewish girl chosen for the harem of a Persian king because of her beauty. One of the king’s advisors harbors a deep hatred for the Jews and hatches a plot to exterminate the entire race. Esther’s uncle, Mordecai, learns of the plot and convinces Esther to use her position of favor as queen to save her people. There was a risk for Esther for to enter the king’s royal court without an invitation carried a sentence of death. She at first hesitates out of fear for her life, but then Mordecai challenges her by asking her to consider that it was for just this very reason that she was chosen by the king to be his queen. Esther finds the courage to approach the king in his court, plead for her people, and in the wins him over. The Jews are saved, and those plotting against them are punished.
Looking back at 2013 there were many great challenges for God’s people. Persecutions against Christians in many parts of the world rose to new levels. Particularly in the Middle East opposition to Christianity was enflamed like few had seen in ages. Christians in Egypt and Syria were beaten and killed, driven from their homes and saw their churches burned. To a lesser degree, yet with some disturbing vigor, Christians in the West have also seen a growing tide of opposition as political correctness, militant atheism, and secular hedonism confront long-standing Christian morality. In the US, photographers, bakers and innkeepers faced legal penalties, fines, or even the loss of their business licenses for refusing to take part in same sex weddings. The HHS mandate under the new Affordable Care Act is forcing charities, para-church organizations, and private business owners to either violate their consciences by providing contraceptives (including some drugs known to cause abortions) to their employees or face crushing fines. Meanwhile, church attendance across all denominational lines continues to fall while “Nones”, those expressing no religious beliefs continues to grow as a demographic group. In many ways, things look pretty bleak.
But, I contend that there is no greater time to be a Catholic than this present time. Why? Because God saw it fit for such a time as this to put me here as a Catholic, in this world, at this time. The author of Hebrews lists many heroes of the Old Testament who looked forward to the days of Christ and his Church. That’s still true today. Eyes of faith and hope can look past all the challenges facing Christianity, and Catholicism in particular, today and see a glorious time for all the faithful—even if it’s not an easy time for us. For if it’s true that “where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more” (Rom. 5:20) then we should be expecting waterfalls of grace. As the world and culture darkens around us we are called to hold out faith, hope, and love as lights and beacons for the lost and weary.
It is easy to look around and become overwhelmed and discouraged by all the gloom and doom. Like Esther, we can be tempted to shrink back from the moment we’ve been placed in, fearful of the consequences of taking a stand and doubtful of our effectiveness. We need to remind ourselves that it is for such a time as this that God has chosen us to be the bearers of the Gospel. If we are faithful and preserve to the end we will see the hand of God move and we may just see many people saved.