Scripture Reading for Today: Joel 1:13-15; 2: 1-2 (read it here)
Joel is the second of the “minor prophets”; and all we know about him is his name—a fairly common one in the Old Testament. Because he shows deep concern for the Temple, its priests, and its worship, some scholars believe that he may have been a priest, or someone directly connected to the Temple.
The date for Joel’s oracles seems to be soon after the return from the exile. The new temple had been finished. But Joel still finds the nation’s relationship with God to be lacking. He warns that without God in their midst there can be no promise of life.
The book of Joel describes a locust plague that has devastated the land of Judah; both farmland and vineyards are laid waste. As a result, crops of every kind were wiped out, and even the Temple of the Lord had to do without offerings and sacrifices. Starvation loomed.
Such great suffering would easily be seen as a punishment for some sin. But no explicit sin is mentioned, and no specific violations of the covenant with God is identified.
Joel is not satisfied with external displays of devotion and challenges the people to make a change deep within their hearts—hidden from human view, but totally transparent to God.
Joel has a plan for restoration. It begins with repentance. He calls upon the priests to lead the way by putting on sackcloth and performing other acts of repentance. The drought has deprived the temple of the usual offerings and libations, but by their example, the priests can fill the temple with people pleading with God to have mercy.
Our reading concludes with Joel’s vivid description of an approaching Day of the Lord, traditionally a day of judgment. Joel describes it as a day of filled with darkness and clouds. And the devastation that follows is so enormous that Joel goes so far as to say that “Joy itself has dried up among the people.”
But Joel’s message is that the Lord is speaking to us in both good times and bad times; God is among us, teaching and loving us in the giving and in the taking away.
In the end, having passed through hardship, devastation, and even a faith that appears shattered, Joel tells us there is hope nonetheless, and the Lord will make the waters of life flow again.
At the beginning of the celebration of the Eucharist we are also invited to stop and reflect on our failures and engage in an act of contrition towards God before we receive the blessing and the privilege of partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ.
Let us be attentive to the Lord’s voice speaking to us out of the circumstances of our life.
Encouraged by Mary, let us also make a sincere resolution to draw closer to the Lord.
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Let us make this a blessed day.
Keep Jesus in your mind and heart and share him with all you meet.
Fr. Michael Brizio, IMC
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