Joel 2:1-2, 12-17 Psalm 103 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:10 Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
"Blow the trumpet in Zion!" declares the prophet Joel. "Sound the alarm, let the people tremble as God approaches in judgement of His people." The prophecy of Joel speaks of an invasion of locusts which will consume the land, of drought and fire that destroys the crops and even kills the wild animals. He speaks of wars. Interspersed in these calamities are the call to repentance and the promise of salvation.
The short book of Joel is one of the reasons that secular news has been referencing the bible and the *apocalypse in their reporting of current events. Today a locust plague wreaks havoc from Africa into Asia. Hundreds of billions of locusts may grow to over one hundred trillion by June.
Australia's drought condition resulted in the deaths of millions of animals in devastating wildfires. Australia exported 9 million tons of wheat a year ago, now they will need to import it for the foreseeable future.
Joel does not speak of disease, but Jesus does (Mt 24). China has lost 2/3rds of their herds to African swine fever (a quarter of the pigs on earth). In addition the coronavirus has the country on lockdown. In recent days Venice canceled Carnevale (their version of Mardi Gras) and the Catholic Church has closed its churches. Public health officials expect a global pandemic and economic impact is being felt, most intensely by the poor and weak.
Joel did not declare the end of the world, nor are our problems unique. A century ago, one third of the world had the Spanish flu and between 50 and 100 million died of it. Another **50 million people died in WW2, but since the birth of Christ, there have been nine other wars with over ten million fatalities and another fifteen with over three million. Jesus said that natural disasters and wars would come, but they are the birth pangs.
Lent confronts us with the truth: "You are dust and to dust you shall return." It is the prophetic message of judgement days, but God is with us even in the bad days. Lent leads us to Jerusalem where Jesus is crucified, standing with all the others who suffered at the hands of Rome and the other Empires of history. Jesus redeems the victims of locust and fire, sickness and starvation.
Yes we are dust.
Yes we will die.
Yes the world is a hard place.
No, we are not alone. He is with us.
No. Sin, suffering and death are not the last word.
Mercy, healing, life and love are.
Yes, we can repent, here and now.
Repent in hope, repent in joy.
And we know: all will be well. And all will be well. (***Julian of Norwich)