‘I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God and I punish a parent’s fault in the children, the grandchildren and the great grandchildren among those who hate me; but I act with faithful love towards thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.’ Exodus 20:5-6.

I have always found these verses difficult to understand, but this week during a discussion, I came to realise its meaning and in fact it gives great hope for us today.

The phrase ‘I punish a parent’s fault in the children…’ perhaps means that the children will not be punished for their father’s sins, but that the father’s sins will have consequenses for his children. For example, a man who drinks to excess on a regular basis is squandering the money that should be feeding and clothing his family; his drunken behaviour may end up in arrest and disgrace for the family; violence may cause harm to others and a drink driver can cause havoc to the lives of innocent people. All these are the consequences of the man’s excessive drinking.

How does this give rise for hope? Well, if a man’s sins can have consequences, so can his positive actions. For example, if he ensures his children are baptised in the faith, the children and grandchildren will continue to be blessed by God. So, for those many families whose children have left the practice of their faith, there is hope. Those seeds of faith that were sown at baptism and in the upbringing of that child are there and could spring into life at any moment.

So pray for your children, especially those who no longer practice their faith and in God’s time, through the power of the Holy Spirit, they may once again return to the Church.