Joel 2:1-2, 12-17
Blow the trumpet in Zion;
sound the alarm on my holy mountain!
Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble,
for the day of the Lord is coming, it is near—
2 a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of clouds and thick darkness!
Like blackness spread upon the mountains
a great and powerful army comes;
their like has never been from of old,
nor will be again after them
in ages to come….
Joel was written to ancient Israel to warn them of a coming disaster of some sort. The prophet describes the disaster as a locust plague that utterly lays waste the crops of the land. In picturesque language, the plague resembles a fierce army that shows no mercy.
It would be easy to draw equations between what is happening in the world now with the locusts of Joel’s day. Covid 19, for example, has, at this writing, taken the lives of over 2 million people, 400,000 of the deceased in the United States.
However, no such equation should be drawn. Joel is addressing his own people to tell them that such catastrophe is a good time for reflection and repentence. “…even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, weeping, and mourning.”
But we can learn from Joel. Lent, regardless of our contemporary condition, is still meant to be a time of reflection and renewal. It comes in the middle of Winter and ends in Spring as the earth goes through similar times of darkness and renewal. Ash Wednesday is such a reminder. With ashes on our forehead we are reminded not to take life for granted.
O God in Heaven, please hear our prayer. As Covid rages and governments falter, may we become more sensitive and mindful of our need for you and your guidance. Give us hearts that are responsive to you. Give us hands that are generous and ready to serve. Give us minds that are honest and penitent. May this time of Lent fill us with reflection and a hunger to follow you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.