Esther, a Persian queen but secretly a Jew reviled, raises an appeal to God that echoes across the ages of humanity: “God of Abraham . . . Help me, who am alone and have no help but you, for I am taking my life in my hand.”
Throughout human history the reviled, the vilified, the rejected, the weak, and the powerless have been able to depend on God alone for help. When religion and culture became an excuse for intolerance and hate, Jewish lives were lost in unprecedented numbers.
Where skin color has been such an enduring barrier to identification among humans, darker hands can scarcely hold anything of meaning, and black lives cease to matter. In each era of mankind God has been the only recourse for those disinherited from the human family. “Precious Lord, take my hand” has been the enduring plea of generations of black believers, spoken privately in prayer and sung in faithful assembly. In God, at least, they inherit the kingdom.
Our Savior, Jesus Christ, assures in the seventh chapter of Matthew that God does not disappoint sons and daughters in need. The minds of revilers can be cleansed. The spirits of bigots can be purified.
Even Queen Esther herself shows how faith can embolden hearts which have been broken. Was not victory within her grasp all along?
- Do you live or worship in a community which includes a group or groups of people who are marginalized?
- Do you recognize a distinctive conversation with God — in song, prayer, and worship — among those who experience racism?
- Has your relationship with God ever touched your attitudes toward people whose race or religion is different from your own?
- How does your relationship with God embolden you to act courageously on behalf of the marginalized?
Fr. Gregory Chisholm, S.J., is an African American Jesuit of the United States Northeast Province. He currently is Pastor of St. Charles Borromeo, Resurrection and All Saints Parish in Harlem in New York City, serving a diverse congregation made up principally of persons of African descent.