The prophet Joel, in the first reading (Joel 1:13-15; 2:1-2), invites the people to deeper commitment to the life of faith. The prophet is concerned with strengthening formal observances of prayer, such as the temple liturgy, and an inward conversion. Furthermore, a fast and a solemn assembly of the people is to be proclaimed by the elders, followed by repentance and prayer. The reason for the fast and the assembly is that the day of the Lord is near, coming as destruction.
The “Day of Yahweh” is a dominant theme in the book of Joel. The term often refers to the decisive intervention of God in history. It can also refer to Christ’s coming at the end of time. The plague of locusts and Darkness used as the day of the Lord are a metaphor for distress and suffering. Despite the apocalyptic language of this text, it is still applicable to our own situation. We experience a lack of faith in our times, too. This becomes clear when we reflect on this text, together with the Gospel.
In the Gospel, curing of the sick and casting out of demons from their captives constitute the signs of the dawning of God’s kingdom on Earth. And Jesus beautifully demonstrates this in the Gospel (Lk 11:15-26). We record two different reactions to Jesus’s ministry.
On the one hand, those in authority target Jesus’ credentials and thereby question the source of this authority and the deeds that flow from it. They are stuck in their knowledge of the law, authority and all that accrues with being knowledgeable.
The other group, on the other hand, is composed of the simple-minded who are shown as constantly praising and thanking God for all that is being done among them through Jesus. We could be meticulous with the observance of the Law, seeing ourselves as morally blameless but still lack the positive presence of the Spirit in our lives. As exemplified in those who argue against Jesus himself, the spirit of God was totally absent. This is something we need to reflect on regarding our spiritual life.
Questioning Jesus ’Authority
We equally read an engaging narrative on the questioning of Jesus’ authority by the leaders of the people. It is interesting to observe how the so-called leaders accused Jesus of using the power of the demon to drive out the evil spirit. One can then think of the saying that “There are none so blind as those who will not see.” But I think of the possible reason that would lead to such a situation of hardening of heart against the great deeds of God around us.
Such close-mindedness is often against faith, God, and even human progress as we see in the decisions of people in our world today. Don’t we see beauty and goodness in the trees of the woods? The magnificence of water bodies, the hills? Human beings, animals, human invention, friendship, love, and family? What could lead people to a close-minded disposition against these good things or even to destruction of them?
Jesus says today that a kingdom divided against itself by internal rivalries cannot survive. The reasons are clear – because they will be working against their goals. I do wonder if there are cases where people, by their actions, attempt to frustrate the work of God’s kingdom. Along with the goals of authentic human wellbeing. And that of creation which Jesus proclaimed as the goals of God’s kingdom.
Today’s call by the prophet Joel in the first reading and Jesus’ deeds and words in the Gospel invite us to a humble acknowledgement of our lack of vision. It is this consciousness that sets us on the way to getting closer to God. And to building of God’s kingdom on Earth. We are invited to choose a simple way of life. Namely, openness to the spirit of God in and around us.