“Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing…Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep. Let them say, ‘Spare your people, O Lord, and do not make your heritage a mockery, a byword among the nations. Why should it be said among the peoples,‘Where is their God?’” (Joel 2: 12-13, 17)
This passage strikes me as painfully relevant to us today. It is one of our Church’s readings for this Wednesday of Cheesefare-Week, on which we on the Byzantine liturgical calendar have Lenten services with the reading of the Lenten Prayer of St. Ephrem, and no Divine Liturgy (no Eucharistic celebration), as a foretaste of Lent. Although Lent is still half a week away, we are called to “return” to the Lord with all our hearts, “with fasting, with weeping, with mourning.” And our “priests, ministers of the Lord,” are called to “weep,” and ask that we not be made “a mockery, a byword among the nations.”
With all the nonsense going on in our American news (“fake” or not), I dare say I can relate to this passage, about us becoming “a mockery” among the nations, in a very immediate way. And I am grateful to have this simple instruction from Scripture, as to what I should do about it. “Return to the Lord, your God,” He calls to me, “for he is gracious and merciful, and slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast” – yes, steadfast, “love,” – not changing with the political winds.
So let me begin my “return” to Him and to His steadfast love with all my heart, “even now.” As Lent draws near, let me detach myself a bit more from the discouraging news and “mockery” of human opinion. Let me not ask with others, “Where is their God?” Because I know where He is, and that is, “in steadfast love,” which abounds now, in the upcoming Lenten season, and ever. Let me rather ask, “Where am I?” as I hear His call to return to Him.