THE POURING OF THE SPIRIT
21st Sunday after Pentecost
This Sunday, which falls on November 1 on the Gregorian Calendar (which is October 19 on the Julian), we remember the Holy Prophet Joel, whose name means "Yahweh is God", the son of Petuel, of the Israelite tribe of Reuben. He prophesied in Judea, particularly in Jerusalem around 800 B.C., according to some scholars, while others place him in the 6th century B.C.
He prophesied an invasion of locusts in the area, seeing in it a warning of future disasters which would also arrive. He called on the people to repent - to turn to God with humility and renewed zeal. He called for faith. It is faith that looks at a disaster and, instead of falling into despair and cursing one's fate - or God Who has permitted this to come about, turns to God to try to understand the meaning of what has occurred in order to pursue a more conscious and virtuous path of life.
Is that how we view the challenges and tragedies of our life? Perhaps not at first. When pain and sorrow strike suddenly it is difficult not to cry out, to complain, to give way to panic and momentary despair. But WE DON'T HAVE TO STAY THERE! When we are so hurt and discouraged - where else to turn to but God? It is natural to do so. Ever so many people have found strength, courage and wisdom appearing "out of nowhere" as a result of prayer - even the wordless prayer of desperate need voiced by a cry, a sob, a sigh, a thought.
Joel did not stay in the realm of the doom he foresaw. From there he moved on to a vision of an intimacy with God that few in his time knew. He foretold a time when the Holy Spirit would be poured out "on all flesh". EVERYONE would be filled with the Holy Spirit, he cried! Everyone would know God intimately - more intimately than their own breath! A new age was dawning, beginning with the tragedy of the locusts and those which followed.
That new age was achieved said the Apostle Peter on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:16), when the Holy Spirit fell with signs and wonders upon Jesus' Disciples and they spoke in languages they had not learned of the mighty works of God. And then the Holy Spirit was poured out on those who heard and turned to God. And He is poured out to this day - upon all who fix their hope upon God as revealed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
When a baby - or an older person - is baptized in the Name of the Trinity in the Orthodox Church we also pray immediately for the fulfilment of Joel's prophesy upon this new member of Christ's family. And we believe that it has happened as we, the Church, have prayed. Thus, in our challenges and trials, we have this resource that we ought to tap into often through prayer and watchfulness. God is faithful. What He has poured out upon us - He does not withdraw. Look within. Look to Him.
V. Rev. Ihor George Kutash