1st Reading: Malachi (3:19-20a)
Malachi means “my messenger”. This book was written by an anonymous author about 460-450 BC after the exile. Although the exile was over and the people had been allowed to return home, they were disheartened. The temple had been rebuilt, but it did not guarantee communal, liturgical, or spiritual unity. The people were in disarray. The clergy were negligent, the ritual sloppy, and there was an indifference to the needs of the poor. The rich became richer, and poor became poorer. The prophets used the idea of the “Day of the Lord” to create fear and to motivate people to change. They claimed the day would be a day of judgment – a day of fire when the righteous would be saved, but evil would be destroyed. Because Malachi came up against the leaders, he was a very unpopular prophet. He was also insistent that the people forsake all foreign religious practices – he was even afraid of intermarriage because he thought it would taint Judaism. (Mary Birmingham, Word and Worship Workbook, 533)
The “Sun of Justice” literally means the ‘sun which is justice’. How does this image speak to you of God? Here we see the Biblical authors applying the symbol of the ‘sun god’ that was used in Persia and Egypt to Yahweh for to them Yahweh certainly was the source of all light and life. The hot sun could blaze with fire to burn away evil and to heal the righteous. Christians applied this idea later to Jesus calling him the “Son of Justice” – the One who comes as light into the world with the incarnate presence of God. (Mary Birmingham, Word and Worship Wk, 533-534)
From John Foley, S.J., “Spirituality of the Readings” http://liturgy.slu.edu:
What does it mean to fear God? How is that healing? We thought God was someone to love. But these scriptures are not talking about the fear that one gets at horror films. Fear of God is a reasonable, settled concern, as awe before the One who is so much more that we can imagine. What is needed and healthy is a reverential wonder toward the One who has created all things that are good. Only when we have such awe, such wonder, such fear, do we begin to relate to God who is the Most High. Only then do we begin to understand the good news that is meant when we say that “God is love.” We need to realize that God is not to ‘circle around us’ as if we were the center of life. Our lives are meant to revolve around God. Living in this truth is the beginning of wisdom and healing.
2nd Reading: 2 Thessalonians (3:7-12)
This letter reflects an example of a group whose apocalyptic fervor has ‘gone amuck.’ They refused to work, and they were beginning to be a burden on the rest of the Christian community. We do need to be careful how we apply this text. We are all capable of being ‘shirkers’ – and we thus need to take the warning seriously. But – as with all scripture – we should not use this passage to criticize the poor who might be faced with unemployment and homelessness beyond their own choice. It may be just as likely to find ‘shirkers’ among the affluent as among the poor. Christianity always demands that we uphold the law of love. (Mary Birmingham, Word and Worship Workbook, 534)
We need to remember Jesus’ words from last week’s gospel: “Our God is God of the living . . . whenever we encounter life, we also encounter God’s presence – and it is a presence of a God of love. Life is a portal, a threshold to God. Where are some ‘places’ in life that we could particularly look for God’s presence? St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas decided that God is most clearly seen in what is good, in what is true, and in what is beautiful. For most of us it is usual to think of God being present in goodness and truth – and anything that is loving and compassionate – but have you paid attention to the beauty that is also around us? It would be a great loss for us to be so busy, distracted, or just plain ‘down’ that we do not take the time to notice all the beauty that is there for us to see, and hear, and know. The next time you see a sunset, a bright colored leaf, or a child’s face let the loveliness touch your heart and mind. Then say to yourself, “God is near.” May gratitude and peace then fill your heart. (Living with Christ, Nov. 2010, pp. 15-16)
Gospel Reading: Luke (21:5-19)
From John Kavanaugh, S.J., “The Word Engaged” http://liturgy.slu.edu :
But in some ways this gospel is also just about the way life is – such things do happen as Jesus warns us. Each day is the last. Each time is the end time. Each human faces the end of the world in the span of a life. Every sunset closes a day that will never come again. Each human death is a curtain on an unrepeatable drama. Without God, this would all mean hopeless tragedy.
Has there ever been an age without such turmoil and trial, persecution and stress? As Paul says, it is only faith that saves us; it is faith that gives us hope in the midst of this ‘groaning of creation’ both within and without our human lives – as we live and when we die.
Our belief in Paschal Mystery can help us. From the Holy Longing by Ronald Rolheiser:
In order to come to fuller life and spirit we must constantly be letting go of present life . . .
Terminal death is a death that ends life and ends possibilities. Paschal death is a death that, while ending one kind of life, opens the person undergoing it to receive a deeper and richer form of life . . . Jesus did not get his old life back. He received a new life – a richer life, a life that is free of death entirely. (146)
What can we learn from the cycle of the paschal mystery?
1. Name your deaths.
2. Claim your births.
3. Grieve what you have lost and adjust to the new reality.
4. Do not cling to the old; let it ascend and give you its blessing.
5. Accept the spirit of the life that you are in fact living. (148)
Let us pray:
Lord, let us bask in the healing rays of your sun of justice. May the rays of your love burn away within us anything that is not part of your goodness and life.
May we radiate your presence in all that we do and say, making your compassion and justice a living reality in our everyday world.
Even when there is cold darkness, may we find your light and trust your fire. Amen.