The Lord said to Moses, “Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf, and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’
The Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are. Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; and of you I will make a great nation.”
But Moses implored the Lord his God, and said, “O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’?
Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’“ And the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
A recent story circulated featured Duke, a black lab missing for 10 years, who was sent back to his family after a microchip was found in his ear. When Duke entered his original home, he greeted his old family with tail wagging and eventually found his old place near the fire and acted as if he had never left.
I think Duke is an example of what we ought to expect if we return to the church family during Lent. As a former pastor, I rejoiced when Lent came. Confessions increased, Mass attendance bumped up, and Holy Week brought even more devout worship. People I had never seen acted as if they had been here before—a tribute to grace and their youthful training.
Like Duke’s family, I longed for such a return and to have such attendance every week. But like God the Father, I rejoiced that people believed in the mercy of God and found it.
—Fr. Karl Voelker, SJ, is on the staff of the Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House in Barrington, IL.
Loving Father, I pray that, like the prodigal son, I can return to you and say: “I have sinned against you and am not worthy to be called your child.” Like the father in story, I trust that, while I am still a long way off, you will be filled with compassion, rush to me, and embrace me. I know that, no matter what I have done, I can always come back to you.
—Adapted from a prayer by Fr. Karl Voelker, SJ