Feast of Purim
Today is the Jewish feast of Purim, celebrating an incident that took place some 2,500 years ago. It is recounted in the Book of Esther.
It is a story of intrigue at the royal palace in Persia. The pagan king, angry at his queen, deposed her and put Esther, a Jewish woman in her place. Meanwhile, a powerful member of the royal court had concocted a plot to have the king in a single day kill all the Jews living in Persia. The date for this massacre was chosen by casting lots which is why Purim is sometimes called the Feast of Lots.
Esther decided to go to the king and plead for her people. In doing so she risked her life, for to enter the kings presence univited was punishable by death. She went ahead anyway and succeeded in saving her people.
Before entering the kings presences she said a prayer:
My Lord, you alone are God. Help me, who am alone and have no help but you, for I am taking my life in my hand. Be mindful of me, Or Lord. Give me courage. Put in my mouth persuasive words in the presence of the lion, and help me, who am alone and have no one but you, O Lord.
Todays Gospel is one of Jesus many mountain experiences:
Before choosing the 12 apostles, Jesus went up the mountain and spent all night in prayer.
After the multiplication of the loaves, Jesus went up the mountain and spent the night in prayer.
Jesus spoke of his charter for the kingdom in the Sermon on the Mount.
At the Mount of Olives, Jesus prayed his heart out to the Father, hours before his death.
We need mountaintop experiences in our lives, but society has a tendency to level off the mountains and flatten them out. We build expressways that take the curves out of the road and the roads become straight and flat.
But somewhere we need mountaintop experiences that are singular, that take some preparation, time and effort. We need to be in a place where things look different and things always look different from the top of a mountain. We need to be in a place where we experience the closeness of God.
From the Churchs perspective, Easter is the great mountain of the whole year, and we work hard to make sure that those days of Holy Thurs, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday are unlike any other days. For instance, the Easter Vigil is a time when we stay up half the night (as we do on some special occasions) to experience the darkness and the new fire. Its a mountaintop experience, and we have to resist the temptation to flatten it out for convenience.
Its hard to climb a mountain. It takes a lot of effort. But we need mountaintop experiences to know God and ourselves in a new light.
Spend some quiet time with the Lord.