“But for you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays.” (Malachi 3:20ab)
As we continue to read from the “minor” prophets, so-called because their writings are rather short by comparison to the “major” prophets, we hear from Malachi in today’s liturgy. The name Malachi is probably not a proper first name. Rather, it seems to be taken from the Hebrew word for “messenger.” The actual name of the prophet is not known.
Malachi writes about the attitudes and behaviors of the Jewish community after the Babylonian exile, not a pretty picture by any means. He accuses the children of Israel of withholding tithes and sacrifices, of offering defective or unsuitable animals for sacrifice, of divorcing their spouses and marrying worshipers of other gods, of taking advantage of the needy and day laborers. His accusations also fall upon the priests of Israel who say what the people want to hear rather than the Word of God. In general, the attitude prevails that nothing is gained by following God’s Law because the wicked seem to be the ones who prosper.
Chapter three of the Book of Malachi is “messianic” in tone, promising the remnant of Israel, those who remain faithful to the Law that a “sun of justice” will appear and will reward the just and punish the wicked.
The prophet’s writings challenge us to look at our own attitudes and behaviors. In many ways, the accusations that Malachi levels at the people of post-exilic Israel could be leveled against us as well. The god of our times seems to be “profit.” A culture of hedonism and gratification has taken over where sacrifice used to rule. Faith is no longer a respected attitude as convenience takes hold of our moral compass.
Malachi’s message for those who still fear the name of God is comforting; for those who have strayed it is a warning to be heeded before it is too late.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator