Week of Proper 22: Friday, Year 1   9 comments

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Image in the Public Domain

Judgment and Mercy

OCTOBER 13, 2023


Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.


Joel 1:13-2:2 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

[The word of the LORD that came to Joel son of Pethuel.]

…Gird yourselves and lament, O priests,

Wail, O ministers of the altar;

Come, spend the night in sackcloth,

O ministers of my god.

For offering and libation are withheld

From the House of your God.

Solemnize a fast,

Proclaim an assembly;

Gather the elders–all the inhabitants of the land–

In the House of the LORD your God,

And cry out to the Lord.

Alas for the day!

For the day of the LORD is near;

It shall come like havoc from Shaddai.

Blow a horn in Zion,

Sound an alarm on My holy mount!

Let all dwellers on earth tremble,

For the day of the LORD has come!

It is a close–

A day of darkness and gloom,

A day of densest cloud

Spread like soot over the hills.

A vast, enormous horde–

Nothing like it has ever happened,

And it shall never happen again

Through the years and ages.

Psalm 9:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with my whole heart;

I will tell of all your marvelous works.

2  I will be glad and rejoice in you;

I will sing to your Name, O Most High.

3  When my enemies are driven back,

they will stumble and perish at your presence.

4  For you have maintained my right and my cause;

you sit upon your throne judging right.

5  You have rebuked the ungodly and destroyed the wicked;

you have blotted out their name for ever and ever.

6  As for the enemy, they are finished, in perpetual ruin,

their cities plowed under, the memory of them perished;

7  But the LORD is enthroned for ever;

he has set up his throne for judgment.

8  It is he who rules the world with righteousness;

he judges the peoples with equity.

Luke 11:14-26 (The Jerusalem Bible):

He [Jesus] was casting out a devil and it was dumb; but when the devil had gone out the dumb man spoke, and the people were amazed.  But some of them said,

It is through Beelzebul, the prince of devils, that he casts out devils.

Others asked him, as a test, for a sign from heaven; but, knowing what they were thinking, he said to them,

Every kingdom divided against itself is heading for ruin, and a household divided against itself collapses.  So too with Satan:  if he is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand?–Since you assert that it is through Beelzebul that I cast out devils.  Now if it is through Beelzebul that I cast out devils, through whom do your own experts cast them out?  Let them be your judges, then.  But if it is through the finger of God that I cast out devils, then know that the kingdom of God has overtaken you.  So long a a strong man fully armed guards his own palace, his goods are undisturbed; but when someone stronger than he is attacks and defeats him, the stronger man takes away all the weapons he relied on and shares out his spoil.

He who is not with me is against me; and he who does not gather with me scatters.

When an unclean spirit goes out of a man it wanders through waterless country looking for a place to rest, and not finding one it says, ‘I will go back to the home I came from.’  But on arrival, finding it swept and tidied, it then goes off and bring seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they god in an set up house there, so that the man ends up being worse than he was before.


The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


The Hellenistic world was a spirit-haunted one.  This was a time of pre-scientific thinking, when the common understanding held that demon possession caused epilepsy and a variety of other conditions.  I, as a product of the Scientific Revolution of the 1600s and the ensuing Enlightenment, as well of subsequent developments, understand the workings of the world differently.  The cause of epilepsy is organic, not demonic.

Yet one must understand the cultural background to grasp the reading from Luke.  Consider, for example, the section about the unclean spirit who leaves a man, wanders about, finds company, and returns.  It did not stay home because something good had filled the void there, so the spirit went back where nothing had filled the vacancy it had created.  The lesson is that good must replace evil, or else evil will take up residence.  Nature abhors a vacuum, in other words.

And the charge that Jesus worked by the power of Satan was a slander, of course.  Our Lord and Savior, by his existence and work, called into question the religious authorities of pre-70 C.E. Jewish Palestine.  Frightened people might embrace change now and then, but usually they fight back, often irrationally and blindly, grabbing on to any straw they can find.

They need to fill their voids with good–and God.  This is what Joel says to do.  This day’s reading from Joel makes more sense when one reads not only it but what precedes and follows it.  The judgment is upon Judah itself, due to its sins.  Yet, later in Chapter 2, we find evidence of repentance.  Then we read these words, credited to God:

Yet even now

Turn back to Me with all your hearts,

And with fasting, weeping, and lamenting.

(2:12, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures)

Then, beginning with 2:19, we have these words, also attributed to God:

I will grant you the new grain,

The new wine, and the new oil,

And you shall have them in abundance.

Nevermore will I let you be

A mockery among the nations….

So, once again, we see the juxtaposition of divine judgment and mercy.  Actions lead to consequences.  Sometimes God intervenes, other times not.  And, sometimes, after negative consequences have run their course, God steps in to show extravagant mercy.  It is better, of course, to follow God faithfully more often than not, to reap the harvest of righteousness, not bitterness and the gnashing of teeth.

May Jesus fill all our voids, present and future.  And may he displace that which ought not be present.  In other words, may we cooperate with God, not cast unfounded accusations.



Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: