Joel 1:13-15, 2:1-2
"It’s Not Too Late."
The Prophet Joel is something of an enigma. Little is known about him, except that he is from Judah, the son of Pethuel. Did he prophesy before the Babylonians invaded and destroyed Jerusalem and marched its leadership into the darkness of exile? Did Joel prophesy after the exile? Is this a book about Judah’s past or its future? We don’t know. All we know is that Judah is facing its moment of decision during a time of national calamity. "Alas, the day," Joel announces, "for near is the day of the Lord, and it comes as ruin from the Almighty."
His message also is rather enigmatic. "This is the Day of the Lord." Is this a message of warning or of good news, of justice or of mercy? Perhaps it is both-and. Joel calls his people to examine their past and the judgment of God for their sins. But, it’s not too late, he seems to say. There is hope in their future if they will seek the Lord.
"This is the Day of the Lord" also means that it’s time to decide. Are they with the Lord or not? Where do they stand?
Jesus speaks a similar word to us. His numerous healings and exorcisms brought freedom and healing to many who were oppressed by the work of evil spirits. This angered some Jewish leaders who accused him of using the power of Satan rather than of God. But Jesus called them on their contradiction. A house divided is a house that will fall. He challenged his opponents. He challenges us, too. It’s time to decide. Do we want to live in the slavery of sin or in the freedom of new life? Despite our past failures and sins, Jesus extends to us a future of hope and healing.
But there is one non-negotiable – there can be no neutral parties here, no house divided. It’s time to decide. "Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters." It’s not too late. If we listen carefully, we will hear the Good News lurking within the words "This is the Day of the Lord."
Deacon Manuel Valencia is on the staff at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California.