|Esther C:12, 14-16,
Psalms 138:1-2, 2-3, 7-8
As winter drags on endlessly and spring seems a distant reality, perhaps we can all identify to a certain extent with Queen Esther’s anguish and despair in the first reading. It is the winter of Queen Esther’s discontent. She has hit rock bottom. Feeling alone and abandoned, she cries out for solace, comfort, and reassurance of God’s promise. Her only hope for reprisal is revealed in her desperate plea for God to manifest God’s presence and faithful covenant to her and her people.
I sometimes tease my students that it is in times of the greatest turmoil, need, or desperation that people become most “religious” or conscious of God’s presence in their lives. Perhaps we can hear ourselves saying, “Oh God, if only you get me through this, I will do such and such (or never do such and such again!).” It is in these moments of desperation and utter dependence that we cry out to God, “I, who am alone and have no help but you.” In some ways, this may seem to be an infantile spirituality where we only become conscious of God and our deep reliance on and need for God, when we are in desperate need and lacking something, whether it be health, finances, security, love, comfort, relationships, etc.
In a more profound way, however, we can see these all too human experiences as spiritual “moments of opportunity” that provide a space for God to penetrate our full, distracted, and busy lives. These experiences call us back to God, to be truly who we are as God’s most precious creation, fully dependent on God for all that we are. Though these experiences of desperation and desolation are the most difficult experiences in our lives, they can also be the most graced experiences. They both affirm our utter dependence on God, and invite us to be aware of that which always is, God’s unconditional love for us and constant presence in our lives.
The Gospel clearly affirms this love and presence. All we need to do is to respond to God and open ourselves to God’s presence: “ask, and you will receive.” It is so simple, yet often it is only in times of our own winter of discontent that we become aware of this presence and recognize our own dependence on God. As we continue through lent, and winter (hopefully) turns to spring, I pray that the emptiness that the “winter” of our desolate experiences in life brings will be filled with the “spring” of God’s presence and consolation.
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