Tag Archives: Malachi

31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, cycle A

A reading from the Book of the Prophet Malachi (1:14; 2:2, 8-10)

Malachi is a pseudonym meaning “My Messenger.”  The author probably wished to conceal his (or her) identity because his attacks on the priests and ruling classes were very sharp.  Malachi arrived on the scene after the excitement of the return from exile had worn off.  Morals were suffering.  People were reneging on their tithes, intermarrying (and losing their cultural and religious identity), and oppressing the widow, the orphans and the foreigner  (US Catholic, K Guentert, p. 22).

Prophets know all about passion!  Malachi feels so strongly about his faith and about impartiality for all people that his language is piercing.  How do you show your passion in your faith?

St. Benedict said to, “Listen and attend with the ear of your heart.”  And Malachi says something similar when he compares listening to laying it to heart.  It hints to the idea that listening to someone should involve our whole self in attention.  Some questions to test your ability to listen:  Do you try to ignore the distractions about you?  Do you smile, nod your head, and otherwise encourage the other to speak?  Do you listen even though you anticipate what s/he is going to say?  Do you withhold judgment of the person?  (Think about how listening is part of being a good leader when we move on to the Gospel.)

A reading from the first Letter of St. Paul to the Thessalonians (2:7-9, 13)

We see Paul here as an ideal authority figure and leader. We often do not think of Paul as humble, yet, an honest look at how he lived his life seems to give us a real-life example of what Jesus meant by being a humble servant. From this letter we see that Paul certainly had ‘turned his life’ over to sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. He wasn’t afraid to be vulnerable – to risk everything. He ministered by entering into a personal relationship with those he wanted to share this good news. He knew the people by name. He worked alongside them, not wanting to be a burden in any way. He shared their joys and sorrows; their problems were his problems. Then, from within this close friendship, he preached, taught, corrected, and guided them. He challenged them to live as he did, in union with Jesus. He would encourage and praise those he brought to Christ. He believed in their goodness and in the power of God’s grace to transform them. In the middle of the two ‘critical’ readings, the church gives us Paul as a real-life example as to how we are all called to live ‘the priesthood of Jesus Christ’ that began with our baptism. (Celebration, October, 2005)

Paul is talking about being transformed by the Good News of God:  hearing it, believing it and then living it.  In Pope Francis’ “Evangelii Gaudium”, he said, “Proclaiming Christ means showing that to believe in and to follow him is not only something right and true, but also something beautiful, capable of filling life with new splendor and profound joy, even in the midst  of difficulties.  Every expression of true beauty can thus be acknowledged as a path leading to an encounter with the Lord Jesus…we should appear as joyful messengers of challenging proposals, guardians of the goodness and beauty which shine forth in a life of fidelity to the Gospel,” (#167).  How profound if we truly lived that way!

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew (23:1-12)

Jesus speaks of good leadership.  To lead like Jesus, one must be servant, steward and shepherd.  “Jesus leaders” build community and fellowship.  They foster contentment and generosity in themselves and in others.  They build trust and increase the flow of trust all around them.  They are inspired to increase their capacity and to make greater contributions to the common good.  And they inspire others to do the same.  Service, contribution, and purpose become the hallmarks of both their individual and collective lives.  It is a new way to live.  It is always a struggle.  And the struggle is lifelong, (O. Phelps, Leading Like Jesus, p. 63).

What does it mean to you to be humble? The word was used in the spiritual sense to mean lowly like a servant. It was not a quality thought highly of by most Greeks. They saw it as ‘self-belittling,’ and thus it was abhorrent.  But the Jewish tradition of which Jesus certainly approved took a different look at it. To be humble was to put oneself in a ‘right relationship’ with God who is the one who deserves our ‘bowing’ and our service. God would and could often use the ‘lowly’ to accomplish good. What became important – and we see this especially portrayed in Jesus – is that the one who is humble lives and acts obediently under God’s purpose. (The word, obedient, means to listen with one’s whole heart and mind.) God humbles us to put us in a right relationship with God and others – but then when we ‘repent’ or live this way of humble service, God raises us up. God exalts the humble.  (Theo. Dictionary of the New Testament, 1152-1154).

From Mary Birmingham, Word and Worship Workbook for Cycle A:

Most scholars today believe that the harshness of this attack against the scribes and Pharisees is probably best attributed to the Matthean church.  Matthew’s lengthy indictment was most likely based on a short statement made by Jesus during his ministry.  Luke’s gospel has the same section, but only four woes (Luke 11: 37-52).  The style of this text is very common in ancient Greek philosophical and Jewish literature.  Dialogue and arguments between opposing sides of an issue were customarily caustic and insulting.  Matthew was certainly not promoting anti-Jewish sentiments.  The language is prophetic in its anger and intensity.  It is meant to challenge all of us for we, too, are capable of hypocrisy (560-561).

A poem by Mary Rita Schilke Korzan

When you thought I wasn’t looking
You hung my first painting on the refrigerator
And I wanted to paint another.

When you thought I wasn’t looking
You fed a stray cat
And I thought it was good to be kind to animals.

When you thought I wasn’t looking
You baked a birthday cake just for me
And I knew that little things were special things.

When you thought I wasn’t looking
You said a prayer
And I believed there was a God that I could always talk to.

When you thought I wasn’t looking
You kissed me good-night
And I felt loved.

When you thought I wasn’t looking
I saw tears come from your eyes
And I learned that sometimes things hurt –
But that it’s alright to cry.

When you thought I wasn’t looking
You smiled
And it made me want to look that pretty too.

When you thought I wasn’t looking
You cared
And I wanted to be everything I could be.

When you thought I wasn’t looking – I looked…
And wanted to say thanks
For all those things you did
When you thought I wasn’t looking.

 

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33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, cycle C

Let us pray with Pierre Teilhard de Chardin…

Lord, enfold me in the depths of your heart;

And there hold me, refine, purge, and set me on fire,

Raise me aloft, until my own self knows utter annihilation.  Amen

1st Reading:   Malachi (3:19-20a)

Take a minute to go over the opening prayer again and what this reading is saying.  Our spirituality is like fire.  We can let it transform us, or we can rest in the coals.  St. Ignatius of Loyola said, “Go forth and set the world on fire.”  How does this sit with you today?

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)

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)

“Faith cannot stand as an excuse.  Faith does not wait for another to work, for another to think, to serve, to pray.  Faith plunges the believer into the thick of the human experience with all its pain and struggle even as it realizes and lives in the hope that this life is not forever.  Temporal and temporary as it is, however, it is only during THIS life that we have the opportunity to prepare for the life that never ends,” (“Preaching Resources”, Nov’04).

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)

Christ’s words are meant to move us, inspire us to set the world on fire like St. Ignatius implores.  Here are some reflection questions using the image of fire:

  • What is blazing in your heart?
  • Where in your life do you experience the fire of light, protection and warmth?
  • What in your life needs to be refined or purified?
  • Where do you experience resistance to the purifying dimensions of fire?
  • What keeps you from living your life with an awareness of this holy fire within you?

Scripture Commentary for the Presentation of the Lord, cycle A

presentation of the Lord

The Christian holiday of Candlemas, on 2 February, is a feast to commemorate the purification of the Virgin Mary and the presentation of baby Jesus. In France, this holiday is called la Chandeleur, Fête de la Lumière,* or jour des crêpes.  Not only do the French eat a lot of crêpes on Chandeleur, but they also do a bit of fortune telling while making them. It is traditional to hold a coin in your writing hand and a crêpe pan in the other, and flip the crêpe into the air. If you manage to catch the crêpe in the pan, your family will be prosperous for the rest of the year.  There are all kinds of French proverbs and sayings for Chandeleur; here are just a few. Note the similarities to the Groundhog Day predictions made in the US and Canada:

À la Chandeleur, l’hiver cesse ou reprend vigueur
On Candlemas, winter ends or strengthens
À la Chandeleur, le jour croît de deux heures
On Candlemas, the day grows by two hours
Chandeleur couverte, quarante jours de perte
Candlemas covered (in snow), forty days lost
Rosée à la Chandeleur, hiver à sa dernière heure
Dew on Candlemas, winter at its final hour  (http://french.about.com/od/culture/a/chandeleur.htm)

1st Reading:  Malachi 3:1-4

Malachi is a pseudonym meaning “My Messenger.”  The author probably wished to conceal his (or her) identity because his attacks on the priests and ruling classes were very sharp.  Malachi arrived on the scene after the excitement of the return from exile had worn off.  Morals were suffering.  People were reneging on their tithes, intermarrying (and losing their cultural and religious identity), and oppressing the widow, the orphan and the foreigner.  For Malachi, this moral slide began in the temple (Guentert, US Catholic, p. 22).  Compare this with the Gospel!

St. Jerome identified the messenger referenced in this pericope as the prophet Ezra.  Jesus adapted the words to John the Baptist  (Mt 11:10)  (Jerome Biblical Commentary, p. 400).  The imagery of lye and fire is meant to be transformational.  When we allow God to come into our life and our decision-making, we can be refined and transformed!  How have you found this to be true in your life?

2nd Reading:  Hebrews 2:14-18

In this part of the letter, we understand that God made Jesus perfect through suffering.  The verb translated ‘make perfect’ in Greek is teleiounIn the New Testament, this word has special meaning.  It is used of an animal which is unblemished and fit to be offered as a sacrifice; of a scholar who is no longer at the elementary stage but mature; of a Christian who is no longer on the fringe of the Church.  The thing or person fully (perfectly) carries out the purpose for which it was designed.  Through suffering, Jesus was made fully able for the task of being the pioneer of our salvation.  Jesus Christ fully identified himself with humankind by becoming a man, and suffered like humans do.  Jesus really felt his humanity with us, and so he can really help, (Barclay on The Letter to the Hebrews, p. 26-28).

Gospel Reading:  Luke 2:  22-40

Grow old along with me!

The best is yet to be,

The last of life, for which the first was made:

Our times are in His hand

Who saith “A whole I planned,

Youth shows but half; trust God:

            see all, nor be afraid!”  ~Robert Browning

It is by the wisdom of elders that our eyes are opened to what Jesus’ purpose will be.  Anna’s name means “grace”.  Like Simeon, she has spent her life in awaiting the Lord, (Faley, Footprints on the Mountain, p. 75).  The reference to “a sword will pierce” is why Mary depicted as Our lady of Sorrows is generally illustrated with swords  (see Union Street church window!).

The requirement for the wife only to be purified after childbirth is found in Leviticus 12:1-8.  Since Mary and Joseph could not provide a lamb, they make the offering of the poor.  The family of Jesus is here seen as totally observant of the law, (p. 74).

Only at great cost would Jesus carry out the purpose for which he was born.  Both he and his mother would know suffering – but that suffering, as Anna the prophetess would affirm, would bring about the redemption of Israel while offering the light of salvation to the gentiles.

As we celebrate this feast, let us present ourselves to God, as Jesus did.  Offering all we are, all we have and all we will become; let us, like Jesus, be willing to go forth from this place determined to be a source of light and healing in an often dark, broken world.  Let us grow strong and wise, knowing that the favor of God rests upon us, (Sanchez, NCR for Jan. 17-30, 2014, p. 25).

Consolation as defined by Margaret Silf, Inner Compass:

  • Directs our focus outside and beyond ourselves
  • Lifts our hearts so that we can see the joys and sorrows of other people
  • Bonds us more closely to our human community
  • Generates new inspiration and ideas
  • Restores balance and refreshes our inner vision
  • Shows us where God is active in our lives and where he is leading us
  • Releases new energy in us  (p. 53)

Compare this to the consolation of Israel.  How can Jesus help you find consolation?

Scripture Commentary for 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, cycle C

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.