Bible Blog 42

This blog follows the daily bible readings of the catholic church

Reading 1, Malachi 3:1-4, 23-24

1 ‘Look, I shall send my messenger to clear a way before me. And suddenly the Lord whom you seek will come to his Temple; yes, the angel of the covenant, for whom you long, is on his way, says the Lord of hosts.

2 Who will be able to resist the day of his coming? Who will remain standing when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire, like fullers’ alkali.

3 He will take his seat as refiner and purifier; he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they can make the offering to the Lord with uprightness.

4 The offering of Judah and Jerusalem will then be acceptable to the Lord as in former days, as in the years of old.

23 ‘Look, I shall send you the prophet Elijah before the great and awesome Day of the Lord comes.

24 He will reconcile parents to their children and children to their parents, to forestall my putting the country under the curse of destruction.’

"Who shall stand when he appears?"

Gospel, Luke 1:57-66

57 The time came for Elizabeth to have her child, and she gave birth to a son;

58 and when her neighbours and relations heard that the Lord had lavished on her his faithful love, they shared her joy.

59 Now it happened that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; they were going to call him Zechariah after his father,

60 but his mother spoke up. ‘No,’ she said, ‘he is to be called John.’

61 They said to her, ‘But no one in your family has that name,’

62 and made signs to his father to find out what he wanted him called.

63 The father asked for a writing-tablet and wrote, ‘His name is John.’ And they were all astonished.

64 At that instant his power of speech returned and he spoke and praised God.

65 All their neighbours were filled with awe and the whole affair was talked about throughout the hill country of Judaea.

66 All those who heard of it treasured it in their hearts. ‘What will this child turn out to be?’ they wondered. And indeed the hand of the Lord was with him.

Again I have to note the bad habit of the lectionary compilers in selecting the verses they like, from the passage in Malachi. The point of selecting from different books of the Bible is to allow one writer to illuminate another. This can’t happen if we have already decided what we want to say, and have chosen verses accordingly.  

These passages offer us an identification of the “purifying angel” with John the Baptiser. This identification is also made at the start of Mark’s Gospel. (Mark 1: 1)  Another point of interest is the words about parents and children in the Malachi, and the evident cooperation of parents with God in the destiny of their child in the Luke, a cooperation also seen in Luke’s story of Jesus’ birth. God’s will requires more than one generation for its implementation.

 The mission of the angel is to be a refining fire for the people, and John the Baptiser also used an image of fire, as he “prepared the way of the Lord” by his preaching . People have to be jolted out of complacency and saved from destruction.

 For us, this Christmas, the issue of climate change is surely the angel, who suddenly comes to the temple, and sifts the people. If we do not turn away from childishness and denial, our grandchildren will face destruction. Some people bleat about not seeing any proof. If your head is firmly pressed into the sand and only your arse is in the air, you’re unlikely to see much. This issue also brings the generations together, because grandparents and parents must act together,now, for the sake of the grandchildren.

 Anyone who thinks that Christ wishes his church to celebrate Christmas, while ignoring the message of the refining angel, should note that he began his ministry by standing in the queue, with those who were being refined by John the Baptiser


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