bible blog 327

This blog follows the daily bible readings of the Catholic Church

the refining fire

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.’

It’s not certain that the messenger (verse1) who is the angel (or messenger, same word)) of the Covenant is also Elijah (verse 23,24). Certainly the strict refining ministry described in v.2 is more typical of the biblical Elijah than the reconciling ministry of v. 24. Malachi the prophet was especially concerned with the purification of Temple sacrifice, so that it would be worthy of the holy God, who had revealed his law at Sinai. The reconciliation of parent and child is essential for the integrity of Israel, because the covenant is to Abraham and his descendants: it continues from one generation to the next. These two concern-recapturing the holiness of God and maintaining the communication of faith across the generations- are not irrelevant to the life of many churches today.

the empty place at Passover for Elijah


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.

Luke knew the speculation which identified John with Elijah as a forerunner of the Messiah. The story tells us he does not get his name /character from family tradition, but from God. God works through the generations, in John’s family, as in Jesus’, to bring about his saving justice, but his hand is evident to those who have faith. The mystery of the character and destiny of children is marked in the narrative: “What will this child turn out to be?”

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