This weekend’s Gospel reading is one that has been simmering in my prayers for a few weeks now. In decades past, I have found it super odd and rather off-putting that the cousin of Jesus – the very one who leapt at Jesus’ divinity even before either of them were born – had such a bizarre wardrobe and diet. Did he choose this? Did he cook the bugs? Did he smell awful? Was he terribly itchy? Ugh. Yuk. Such random thoughts about his lifestyle would wander through my head without ever taking fruitful root there, without bringing any meaning to my faith journey.
But recently I was blessed to hunker down into the short Old Testament book of the prophet Joel – which seems to describe the complete devastation of this year, our culture, our environment, and even my own heart with surprising precision. Part of chapter 1 says:
What the cutting locust left, the swarming locust has eaten. What the swarming locust left, the hopping locust has eaten, and what the hopping locust left, the destroying locust has eaten.
“Yep, Lord, that about sums it up!” I said to Him.
“It does!” He half-chuckled. “Keep reading My Word!” So I did… and saw Joel 2:25: I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter….
And then God led me to remember John the Baptist, that last and greatest prophet. The one who, even today, announces with his whole self that The Renewal is a breath away; the one who stretches out his hand and flips it over, pointing, as history is about to be inverted on its axis; the one who dons the wildness and wisdom of the desert in preparation for the onrush of Eden; the one who brazenly chomps on the locust now, rather than allowing that otherwise all-consuming army to ruin us for one more day, because his entire being declares our imminent Rescuer. Does John suspect that Jesus will even go so far as to offer us Himself as our feast? That He will be for us in the sacraments the most savory of diets: the most fragrant bread, the choicest wine, the finest oil, so that our lives may be fully restored? That God Himself, Emmanuel, will be always approaching, and always in our midst? I think so. It seems Joel did, too:
The threshing floors will be full of grain, and the vats will overflow with the new wine and oil…. You will have plenty to eat and be satisfied, and you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you; then My people will never be put to shame. So you will know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the Lord your God and there is no other; and My people will never be put to shame. Joel 2:24, 26-27
We wait in confident hope.