By Sarah Cornwell
Reading from Esther, 4:4-17
4 When Esther’s maids and her eunuchs came and told her, the queen was deeply distressed; she sent garments to clothe Mordecai, so that he might take off his sackcloth; but he would not accept them. 5Then Esther called for Hathach, one of the king’s eunuchs, who had been appointed to attend her, and ordered him to go to Mordecai to learn what was happening and why. 6Hathach went out to Mordecai in the open square of the city in front of the king’s gate, 7and Mordecai told him all that had happened to him, and the exact sum of money that Haman had promised to pay into the king’s treasuries for the destruction of the Jews. 8Mordecai also gave him a copy of the written decree issued in Susa for their destruction, that he might show it to Esther, explain it to her, and charge her to go to the king to make supplication to him and entreat him for her people.
9 Hathach went and told Esther what Mordecai had said. 10Then Esther spoke to Hathach and gave him a message for Mordecai, saying, 11“All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that if any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law — all alike are to be put to death. Only if the king holds out the golden sceptre to someone, may that person live. I myself have not been called to come in to the king for thirty days.” 12When they told Mordecai what Esther had said, 13Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. 14For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father’s family will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.” 15Then Esther said in reply to Mordecai, 16“Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will also fast as you do. After that I will go to the king, though it is against the law; and if I perish, I perish.” 17Mordecai then went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him.
There is such an interesting (and debatable) relationship between destiny — what we are “meant” to do — and free will. Here, Mordecai entreats Esther to plead with the king, her husband, on behalf of her people: “Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.” All of the individual choices that Esther has made, or others made on her behalf, put her in the right place at the right time with the right access to be the savior of her people.
It’s a romantic idea, the notion that our quotidian lives are actually building towards some great heroic climax. One thing we are called to remember, however, is that while we all have our own parts to play, we may not be called to be the obvious hero. We might be called to be someone like Hathach, who only delivers the message — and yet is essential to putting a queen in the position to save her people.
One illuminating aspect of the pandemic is how essential the so-called “minor” roles are in our society. In God’s great unfolding narrative, more of us will have roles like Hathach, or countless unnamed others, and very few of us will be Esther. And yet, our lives — and all those seemingly insignificant choices we make — have meaning, because when the time is right, we will be in the right place and have exactly what we need to do what God means us to do. And we still have the choice to say “yes” or “no.” Even if the part we play is just to be a loyal messenger, in a world where the last shall be first, that is also a hero’s role.
Sarah Cornwell is a laywoman, ballet teacher, and an associate of the Eastern Province of the Community of St. Mary. She and her husband have five children and they live in the Hudson Valley north of New York City.
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