The Gate Through the Old Elm Tree
Lessons from Esther
I felt the pull of the Holy Spirit to write this first book in the Bible Series because of the line: Perhaps this is the moment for which you have been created. (Esther 4:14) The biblical Esther hears those words from her uncle, Mordecai, and it changes her. She rises up and takes courage. She speaks up for a nation that needs her and she saves that nation because she found her voice.
Today, John Lewis’s words evoke the same kind of emotion. They urge us to take courage. They urge us to speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves. “If you see something that’s not right, not fair, not just, do something about it. Say something. Do something. Have the courage.” (Commencement speech at Washington University, St Louis.)
As Christians, we know that courage is a gift from the Holy Spirit. It is important for young people to form a relationship with the Holy Spirit and continue, throughout their lives, to grow in that relationship – remain always docile to the tugs and the promptings of the Spirit. In order to truly tell the story of Esther, I have woven the Holy Spirit throughout the book – into and around the storylines, always there, always prompting. In this fantasy, the eagle, Spiritus, represents the Holy Spirit.
And finally, when Esther needs to find the words to speak with the King, she prays to the Holy Spirit for the courage to do so and for the words to say. I hope you, the reader, also see the same strength and courage given by the Holy Spirit in the other storylines in the book.
Here are some of things that I think are teachable moments in this book about Esther, M’Cai, Bartimus, Zahra and Shimei.
Spiritus appears at all the right moments – when Esther appears and they need to hide from those soldiers hunting them, when Esther is taken and the men need to make a plan. When Esther talks to Zahra and tells her she has met M’Cai, Zahra relaxes when she knows Spiritus is involved. She puts her trust completely in the Holy Spirit. How do we do that today? What does it mean to put your trust in the Holy Spirit?
A priest once said in a talk that you are only as good as the average goodness of your five best friends. Something like that! Zahra gives Esther a warning on page 38 that reminds young people to be aware of who they are trusting. “Until you know for sure the person you’re dealing with, you need to be mindful of the animal that accompanies them.” Do we surround ourselves with people who are good in the eyes of God? Not just one or two but our group of friends?
Throughout the book, Spiritus appears at odd times – the time when M’Cai found the wagon, to Bartimus and Shimei after tending to Saffi. Each time, a character says ‘There is always a reason Spiritus shows up.’ That represents the tug of the Holy Spirit. The times when we know that God is working in our lives. This is a great opportunity to talk about God-moments and look for those moments in our lives.
M’Cai and Bartimus arrive in Susa not knowing anyone. Through Spiritus’ help, they find people they can trust – Tomas and Mica. A friendship built on belief in God and intent on carrying out God’s plans is fellowship. Do we have friends like that – fellows – in our lives? If so, are we consciously spending time with them in fellowship?
On page 71, Spiritus gives Esther a little bird. On page 72, he says, “This little bird will strengthen, protect, guide, and teach you. He will never leave your side.” This is Esther’s guardian angel. We have all been given one sent from God. It is important for the readers to understand the teachings about guardian angels. This part of the book provides the segue into that.
On page 82, the King reflects on the answers he has been given. Only two, Esther and Zahra, speak about friendship. He also asks Esther about the most important duty of a queen. She replies, “A queen should love the people within her kingdom.” What would we say is the most important thing in our lives? Is it something that can been taken away – a cell phone, a new pair of jeans – or friendship, love, faith? What is the most important attribute of a leader?
As a continuation of that discussion, who is the Queen of Heaven and Earth? What are we taught about the Blessed Virgin Mary? We are taught that she loves us – all of us. How do we know that?
On page 94, Kamran is reflecting on what happened to Haman. He thinks, “And often, he would wonder at the difference one individual could make in another’s life. In a single moment, a person could turn another towards all that is good and right and true, or forever help to set them on a deathly path towards destruction.” This is the same wording used about Saffi on page 169 as Jeb and his wife agree to adopt him. It is important for the reader to think about their words and their influence on others. Are we urging people forward to be the best they can be in the eyes of God? It might be a good time to talk about Saul and his conversion – when he became Paul. The impact on the direction of his life when God intervened and in one moment, his life was changed forever.
On page 104, Shimei tells Sheba, “You can’t justify bad things as good.” This is a reference to Romans 3:8. A great discussion can stem from these words about whether or not we can do evil for the good that may come of it. The Catechism is clear about this.
On page 117, Shimei realizes that it was his conversation with Kurush that resulted in Haman knowing that M’Cai and Bartimus were Jews. This is a page of forgiveness after repentance – true repentance.
The famous line “Perhaps this is the moment for which you have been created.” (Esther 4:14) appears on page 132. Have you ever felt that? Did you ever think you were being led by the Holy Spirit to do something, to talk to someone, to help someone?
On page 133, Esther says, “Pray for me, M’Cai”. Prayer – so important in our lives. Esther knows that she needs God to help her through the Holy Spirit. Our relationship with God is built on prayer. That is how we communicate with Him. What does prayer mean for you? How do we build on our relationship with God? How do we pray?
On page 154, Esther prays to God to guide her speech. We are told in the bible that we can call on the Holy Spirit to give us the words to say. We see this happening on page 158 and 159. Esther gets her courage and confidence from the Holy Spirit. We also see how this ties in to John Lewis’ words, “If you see something….. do something.”
On page 169, Bartimus is given the role of Court Physician for the People which is a good introduction to a discussion about social works.
On page 171, Esther is happy that her little bird – her guardian angel – is with her as she comes back home. Our guardian angels are with us always. They never leave our side.