Moment of Destiny

Saint Francis was the son of a wealthy merchant. He had grown up like any other rich man’s son and was known for his magnificent clothes and his extravagant ways. When he became a young man, Francis went to battle as a knight together with other young men of his station. His experience of the horrors of war, however, made an enormous impression upon young Francis. It started an internal process inside him that turned Francis away from the vanities of the world and towards heaven. He abandoned his former frivolous existence and began a life of prayer and contemplation. He spent his time praying in old church ruins and caves.

Francis’ father Pierto was disgusted and humiliated by the change in his son’s behaviour. After Francis took a large bundle of expensive cloth from the family shop and sold it to give money to the poor, Pierto became outraged and decided to take action against his son. He went to the Church authorities in the town and laid a claim against Francis for the value of the cloth that he had taken. A time was set for the father and son to appear before the bishop of Assisi.

On the day of the judgment, a large crowd gathered in the courtyard outside the Episcopal palace. When father and son came before him, the bishop turned to Francis and declared:

“If it is your desire to serve God, then give his mammon back to your father.”

All eyes turned to Francis, who sat on the other side of the bishop – still clothed in his costly scarlet garments – to see what he would do. Francis slowly stood up and then, with tears pouring down his eyes, proclaimed:

“Lord, I will not only give him the money cheerfully, but also the clothes I have received from him. “

Then, before anyone realized what he was doing, Francis disappeared into an adjoining room and then reappeared a moment later with his clothes bundled in his arms and only a haircloth about his loins.

Everyone in the courtyard remained still and silent, as father and son stood face to face.

“Listen, all of you, to what I have to say”, proclaimed Francis. “Hitherto I have called Pierto di Bernadone father. Now I return to him his money and all the clothes I got from him, so that hereafter I shall not say: Father Pierto di Bernadone, but Our Father who art in heaven!”

Then Francis bent down and laid his clothes, and all the money he possessed, at the feet of his father Pierto. [1]

There are times in life when the pattern of the universe comes together to create a moment of destiny. At these moments, we must choose how we will act, choose which path we will take, which life we will live. All of us face such moments. All of us have the free will to choose our path.

Jesus said: “Many are called but few are chosen.”(Matthew 22:14)

How many of us listen when God calls out to us? How often does God call us and we just ignore His summons? We are so busy with our mundane affairs that we do not even hear God’s call. We are so caught up in our comfort and ease that we have become immune to the silent prodding of our inner voice.

In the Ethics of the Fathers 4:3, Ben Azzai asserts: “there is no man [or woman] who does not have his hour.”

We all have our hour. We all are given opportunities when we can transform our lives. The question is: will we have the courage and inner strength to do what is necessary? Will we have the required faith to take the plunge?

In a powerful moment of destiny in the Purim story, Mordechai sends a message to Queen Esther imploring her uncle Mordechai to stand up and save her people. To do so, Esther must risk her crown and perhaps even her life, by breaking the strict rules of court etiquette and coming before the king without being summoned. She also must stand up to Haman, the powerful prime minister, who is plotting to destroy all of the Jews in the kingdom.

When Esther hesitates to answer the Divine call, her uncle Mordechai puts the spiritual truth of the situation plainly before her:

“Do not think in your heart that you shall escape in the king’s house any more than all the other Jews”, he tells her. “For if you remain silent at this time, then shall relief and deliverance arrive to the Jews from elsewhere; but you and your father’s house shall perish. And who knows whether you are not come to royal estate for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:13-14)

Esther’s hour has come. Everything that she has done until now has led up to this moment.  She must rise to the occasion and take up the Divine call or her whole life will have been lived in vain.

And so it is with all of us: we all have our moments of destiny, we all face circumstances that will determine the future course of our life. How will we act? Will we strive ahead or waiver? Our entire life turns on how we respond.

There is yet another level to this call of destiny, one that is subtler, yet no less powerful in its ultimate effect. This level is a call to stand up for what is right and true – to live our life by the highest standards and ideals.

In the Ethics of the Fathers 3:16, Rabbi Akiva teaches: “Everything is given on collateral and a net is spread over all the living; the shop is open, the Shopkeeper extends credit, the ledger is open, the hand writes, and whoever wishes to borrow, let him come and borrow; the collectors make their rounds regularly, each day, and exact payment from man with or without his knowledge [of his debt], and they have on what to rely; the judgment is a judgment of truth; and everything is prepared for the feast.”

We make moral choices every day, and many of our choices seem to go unseen, and un-rewarded or unpunished, as the case may be. The truth is that none of our acts go unseen; none of our acts of moral uprightness go un-rewarded. Every thing we do is recorded in the “Divine Ledger.” Every act has its karmic consequences and those consequences will be revealed in the course of time.

Sometimes the consequences of our acts are immediately apparent, other times they are hidden from us. The reward or punishment we receive for our actions may come in this life or in another one. But the “judgment is a judgment of truth” – on that we can rely.

Every single moment of our lives creates our future destiny. Every thought, word and deed plays a role in shaping our reality. We create the state of consciousness in which the events of our life unfold. And it is this state of consciousness that will determine how we respond when our Divinely ordained hour arrives.

The organization of the laws of cause and effect is complex and multi-levelled. We each have our own personal karma, but there is also the karma of each people and nation, the karma of humanity, and the karma of the Great Being who overshadows the whole of this earth.

There is a great network of souls who work in the heavens to oversee the workings of the process of “sםwing and reaping” in the universe. They “write” our acts and their consequences into the pattern of existence. They work on all levels of the manifest universe “making the rounds” and “collecting the debts.”

The story of our lives is the story of our moments of spiritual opportunity. Our destiny turns on the quality of the life we have lived and the kind of attributes that we have built into ourselves. When these moments of destiny arrive, what is inside us will be plainly revealed for all to see.

And then there are moments when we have the opportunity to not only fulfill but also to transcend: when we can not only fulfil that which is best in our nature, but also transcend our human limitations and act from a place which is Divine.

When the prince Gautama left the royal palace in search of enlightenment, he engaged in a life of severe penance. After six years, he realized the futility of severe asceticism. Deciding that it was better to follow a path of moderation and build up his body’s strength, Gautama took some simple food and then sat under the Bodhi tree to meditate. As he began his practice, Gautama declared:

“I will not leave this spot until I find an end to suffering.”

Gautama remained in deep meditation all through the night. As the hours wore on, Mara, the celestial Lord of Illusion, came to try and turn him from his path. First he sent beautiful women to lure Gautama’s mind towards sensual pleasures, but Gautama’s mind remained fixed on his inner reality. Seeing that this had no effect, Mara next sent bolts of lightning, wind and heavy rain to try and break Gautama’s one-pointed concentration. Again, his attempts failed as Gautama sat still and calm. In a final effort to deter Gautama from his goal, the Lord of Illusion sent vast armies of demons to attack Gautama with weapons and flaming rocks. One by one, Gautama met the armies and defeated them with the strength of his virtue and the power of his mind.

As the battle with the powers of illusion drew to a close, Gautama realized the cause of suffering and how to remove it. He gained the highest understanding and wisdom, and experienced the one reality that underlies all that is. In that moment, the prince Gautama became the Buddha, “The Awakened One.”

The Buddha stayed for seven days under the Bodhi tree, resting in the bliss of Nirvana. Then the Buddha left the seat of his enlightenment, and went out to deliver his message of salvation to the world.

Such transcendent moments of destiny are both a profound challenge and a blessed gift. They force us to dive deep into the interior of our being. They motivate us to go beyond all external appearances to touch the Divine spark that is the essence of who we are. They enable us to harness the energy of ‘Divine livingness’ that animates every living thing and break through into the higher consciousness of our supernal source.

The Book of Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) 3:1 proclaims: “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” There are prearranged times for our moments of destiny. They come to each of us at a different time and in a different way. The challenge that each of us will face will be different, the opportunity unique to our situation and to the point in the spiritual journey that we have reached. But all of us are given opportunities for growth. All of us will arrive at the inner “fork in the road”, when we must choose which path we wish to walk along.

Copyright © 2008, by Yoel Glick


Acknowledgements    (↵ returns to text)

  1. Saint Francis of Assisi, Johannes Jorgenson