Scripture: Lectionary 464: Malachi 3:13-20. Psalm 1:1-2.3-4.6. Luke 11:5-13
Malachi is the name applied to last of the Minor Prophetical books. It
means “My Messenger, or my Angel.” The book is often seen as a transition
from the time of prophetical literature to that of Wisdom and Scribal
writings. It is best placed after 515 B.C. and fits in well with the
context offered by Ezra, the Scribe and Nehemiah, the “governor.” In a
sense it deals with the sacred and the secular. Since the Day of Yahweh is
one of its themes, there is often some application of the text to what will
happen in the world at the end, for example, there are creative myths about
the time of the last Pope or Bishop of Rome even pointing to the last
portraits of the popes found in the basilica of Saint Paul outside the
Walls in Rome. A guide who was asked about this pointed to the last two or
three mosaics of Popes from the beginning that after those three are filled
with a pope then we will simply start a new row of them underneath the
existing ones! A good way to put aside the false reading of Malachi to
speak of our times and the end time as though it were soon to happen.
The author is concerned about the same things as Ezra and Nehemiah were
concerned: priests not observing the ritual, purity, and reverence for the
Temple; not permitting divorce and intermarriage; a great concern for
social justice toward the poor, the widows, and the aliens or refugees.
The book or better the scroll of Malachi is a final prophetic work before
we enter the writings of the Wisdom literature and the hagiographical
writings in the Old Testament found in I and II Maccabees.
Catholics have traditionally seen and appropriated one of the texts to
speak about the Mass, but this is not the context of Malachi, nor a
prophetic prediction, but more devotional application by the Church. (cf.
Mal 1:11 and 4:1).
We can learn much about the dignity of marriage, the responsibility of
priests and deacons, and the issues of social justice by reflecting upon
this book in the light of what our Psalm and its response is encouraging us
to do. Psalm 1 is a Wisdom Psalm that emphasizes the need to ponder over
the Torah in order to have a harvest of virtues necessary for the righteous
person. Such pondering would include the married, the priests, the poor,
the widows, the children, and the elderly as well as the alien or refugee.
Isn’t this a universal call to holiness? Malachi offers some holy and
wholesome advice to those who take the time to read it. We only use it
here in the liturgical readings for the year. We are all called from our
apathy and self-centered interests to a wholesome and virtuous way of
living no matter what our state of life is. We have to realize that God
still loves us and always will and then live with that over against our
laziness of spirit and our lack of attentiveness to God in prayer. Amen.