Prophets, like saints, are sometimes hard to figure out. Scholars can’t tell us much about the Prophet Joel, who speaks in our readings at Mass these days. They’re not sure when he was born or the circumstances of his life. Yet, prophets like him offer important morsels of insight into the mystery of God.
Joel sees Judea reduced by waves of locusts and no rain until it’s a desolate and impoverished land. Yet, in those dire times, when everyone suffers and all seems lost, the prophet says the Day of the Lord will come. God will hear the cries of his people who complain about their enemies’ taunts: “Where is your God?”
Joel says the Day of the Lord, when God brings justice and peace, will come in the Valley of Jehoshaphat, a name the Jews applied to the Kidron Valley, which lies between the Mount of Olives and the temple of Jerusalem. God will destroy his enemies there and then pour his blessings on Jerusalem and his holy people. (Joel 4, 12-21)
We remember, of course, that Jesus crossed the Kidron Valley and went onto the Mount of Olives to pray the night before he died. On that dark night, he pleaded with his Father in heaven to take away the cup of suffering, as his own disciples abandoned him. There he faced the great enemy Death, that cries out to us all: “Where is your God?” He left that place to bring blessings of life as he died and rose again.
Did Jesus remember the words of Joel as he prayed on the Mount of Olives, facing the Kidron Valley and the Holy City?
At Pentecost, the Apostle Peter uses a long quotation from Joel to explain the blessings God gives through Jesus’ death and resurrection: “It will come to pass in the last days, God says, that I will pour our a portion of my spirit on all flesh. Your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions and your old men shall dream dreams…I will work wonders in the heavens above and signs of the earth below…” (Acts 2, 17-19)
In Jesus God begins the Day of the Lord.