The Responsorial Psalm declares an enduring fact: “The Lord will judge the world with justice” (Psalm 9).
In Joel 1:13 to 2:2 the “day of the Lord” does not sound like a day to look forward to! “It comes as ruin from the Almighty… a day of darkness and of gloom.” But it is in fact a day of piercing light: “The Lord will judge the world with justice.” It is the false light of this world, the light of distorted cultures, attitudes and values, that will be revealed as darkness. In the Lord’s “judgment” (the root meaning is “separation”), all will see, as Malachi proclaimed yesterday, “the distinction between the just and the wicked.” As in the famous judgment scene of Matthew 25: 31-46, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory…. all the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” This is the triumph of light and truth.
More important than what Joel foretells is what he calls the people to do: “Proclaim a fast, call an assembly, gather the elders, all who dwell in the land… and cry to the Lord.” Those who recognize that their society is headed toward destruction must not just sit around and criticize. Anyone who sees what is wrong must exercise leadership. It is their responsibility to “call an assembly, gather the elders,” urge “all who dwell in the land” to do something about it — beginning, of course, with prayer, but letting prayer guide and motivate to action. This is responsible stewardship.
In Luke 11: 15-26 Jesus is accused of being in league with the devil! He turns the accusation to good by using it to give a very important teaching: “Any house torn by dissension falls.” Those who would exercise leadership, whether in the Church or in society, must always strive to unify people. We do this, first, by avoiding words and actions that are needlessly divisive such as labeling, misrepresentation, over-simplification and inflammatory language. But the ultimate source of unity can only be union with Jesus Christ. In union with him we find communion with one another. The best way to disagree is to first make clear what we agree on, sharing our common experience of dealing with God, until we “find Christ” in one another — even if in non-Christians he has to be recognized under a different name. Jesus said, “Whoever is not with me is against me.” But he also said, “Whoever is not against you is for you” (Luke 9:50). Those we think are against us may well be with Christ, even if they do not know it themselves. Eventually all will be clear: “The
Lord will judge the world with justice.”
Initiative: Be Christ’s steward. Gather people together to work for change.