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ARE YOU WITH ME OR AGAINST ME?

Father Francis's picture
Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time

Joel 1:13-15; 2:1-2 & Luke 11:15-26

The people of Israel were punished for their continued disobedience when God allowed the Babylonians to hold them captive for 70 long years. After their chastisement was completed they returned with a new vigour for God. Regrettably, however, their zeal was shallow and short-lived.

The locust plague which occasioned Joel’s prophecy was seen as a specific consequence of disobeying the Lord. This showed that the Jews had not truly repented as a result of their exile. They honoured God externally with their lips but inwardly their hearts remained distant from Him. Joel called for true repentance, “Rend your hearts and not your clothing.”

The locusts had devastated the vegetation of the land and the people suffered both physically and spiritually. Not only did they lack food for their bodily needs but, even worse, they had no rain nor drink for their offerings to God. All of Israel’s farmers, priests, newly-weds, even children, were called to the house of the Lord to cry out for mercy. As one people, they fasted, mourned and called on the name of the Lord to save them.

Joel was not calling for repentance merely because of the locust plague (which had passed), there was something which was much more important at stake, something spiritual. He interpreted the locust plague as a forerunner of “the day of the Lord” when final judgement would be passed on all people. Through repentance, Israel was to prepare herself for this day.

The book of Joel provides a clear example of how God relates to us, not only as individuals, but also as a people. The locust plague came upon the whole people. All were called to repentance. The Lord had pity on His people. We are many members making up the one body of Christ, preparing for “the day of the Lord” and called by God to have repentant hearts, for our own sins and for the sins of all the people.

Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel, “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters. He might have added by way of explanation that He who does not help Him to carry the Cross actually makes it heavier. And that he who does not walk with Him and talk with Him and work with Him and live with Him is surely following someone else besides Him.

If you wonder whether you are a true follower of Christ or not, whether you are for Christ or against Christ, you can easily find out by asking yourself – and a Friday is certainly a good day to do this – am I helping Christ carry His Cross? Am I denying myself to be of help to others when they are in need? Christ gave His life for all of us. Am I willing to carry the Cross a little, out of love for the poor, the needy or the lonely? Can I sacrifice a little of my time, my energy or my money so that others may live more decently and more happily?

Are we with Christ in our thoughts and words? Is our prayer life a sign that Christ is often with us and we with Him? Friends tend to be together a lot. If we are with Christ, if we consider Him our friend, we will be with Him regularly in prayer.

Christ is still with us in His Church. He makes His will known to us through the Church in many areas. Are we with the Church? Do we live for Christ by living with and for the Church? Or do we perhaps knock the Church, knocking Christ and being are against Him?

Lord Jesus, have mercy on us, for we have sinned against You! By the help of Your grace may be never sin again.

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