Scripture Reading for Today: Joel 4:12-21 (read it here)
Joel’s oracles urged Judah and Jerusalem to a spiritual awakening. Once acting as if they were autonomous with no connection to God, now the people have learned that their existence depends on God’s gracious gifts to them.
The devastation of the land they have experienced, was God’s severe judgment on them; but it was not punishment for its own sake but punishment with a purpose, and the people had the opportunity to become wiser.
Joel locates God’s judgment in the Valley of Jehoshaphat, an appropriate name meaning “God judges,” and in the Valley of Decision. These are not locations on a map but rather symbolic places for judgment and punishment.
The imagery of harvest and vats full of wine initially seems positive. But soon enough it becomes clear these images represent judgment of condemnation against the great evil done by the people.
But God humiliates to elevate; he deprives to give abundantly. And, in Joel’s vision, Judah was once reduced to a desert, but now it thrives. With God’s presence in the midst of the people, their land becomes a lush garden once again.
The mountains drip with new wine; the hills flows with milk, and streams of water flow from the temple, providing life-giving water for the valleys below. And not only will occupying armies be eliminated, those not committed to God will not even pass through the city, which houses only the just.
But God is the Lord and judges not only Israel, but all the nations. Also, Egypt and Edom will be reduced to a desert. In their pride they did violence to God’s people, and they shed innocent blood. In their arrogance they entertained the illusion they were invincible and forgot how much they took for granted; but they, too, will be cut down and tread upon as grapes at harvest time.
In fact, they are just as vulnerable as any other nation in the world of time. They have a lesson to learn from Judah and Jerusalem—the necessity of renouncing their pride and drawing near to God.
In the day of God’s judgment, therefore, the just will flourish, thrive, and experience renewed life, while the unjust will become a desert waste.
It is interesting that many Fathers of the Church saw in Mary, the mother of Christ, the symbol of a new beginning of the time of abundance after the deprivation and the ravages of sin. They saw in her the new temple from which comes Christ the giver of the new wine, the new harvest, and the living water of the Spirit.
The Fathers of the Church also saw in Mary’s presence at the wedding of Cana where wine became abundant as the symbol of the messianic time that she helped inaugurate.
It is in the Eucharist that we participate in the joy of the water of life and the wine of salvation flowing from the side of the crucified Lord.
Let us thank the Lord for his goodness.
Motivated by Mary’s example, let us also draw closer to Christ, the new Temple, from whose side flows the living water of the Holy Spirit.
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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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