Deacon Steven Johnson’s Reflection – December 23, 2021
4th Week of Advent, Thursday, Year C
Readings: Mal 3:1-4, 23-24-20, Ps 25, 4-4ab, 8-9, 10&14, Gospel Lk 1:57-66
Optional Memorial of St. John Kanty, Priest
Theme: Preparing for the Lord
How wonderfully written is the Bible! It is the story of salvation history, the story of our salvation. As you explore and read from both the Old Testament and the New Testament you come to realize how interconnected they are. How the old prefigures the new and that over 4,000 years the stories of the Bible reveal the plan of God for all of us.
In today’s readings (Malachi and Luke), we see this prefiguring of what is to come. God spoke through the prophets of old giving the people a vision of His future plans. But sadly, many ignored them or brushed them off as crazy or religious fantasies.
To see this interconnection and prefiguration of the Old Testament to the New Testament we must understand who the prophets Malachi and Elijah were.
The Book of Malachi was probably not written by a person actually named Malachi. Most scripture scholars agree that the writer of Malachi chose that name, which means “The Messenger” in Hebrew, so that he could remain anonymous and not be persecuted for criticizing the priests and people for profaning the Lord’s altar with blemished sacrifices, and the people for marrying pagans and practicing pagan rituals. The Book of Malachi was written around 455 BC after the return of Israel from Babylon. This prophet recognized the sinful way Israel was living and worked, through God’s inspiration, to bring them back to the Lord.
Elijah was a revered prophet who was born around 900 BC and died around 849 BC (times vary depending on various scholars). God performed many miracles through Elijah, including resurrection, bringing fire down from the sky and entering Heaven alive on a chariot of fire. He led the people in the way of God through acts of holiness and upright justice. The Israelites believed that it would be Elijah who would return to prepare the way for the great and mighty king, the Messiah they were waiting for.
In our reading today, Malachi, some 400 years after Elijah, prophesied that it would be Elijah who would return to set things right with the Israelite people of his time. Through Malachi, God tells the people “Lo, I will send you Elijah, the prophet, Before the day of the Lord comes, the great and terrible day.”
Little did he know that some 455 years later this word of God would be fulfilled in the birth of John the Baptist.
John the Baptist is the Elijah Malachi spoke about. In the verses of chapter 1 in Luke prior to today’s reading, the Archangel Gabriel announces to Zacharia that his wife will bear a son in her old age, and they are to name him John (which signifies “Yahweh has shown favor”). Gabriel goes on to tell Zacharia that his new son “will go before him (the Lord) in the spirit and power of Elijah…”. (Lk 1:17). Christ himself confirmed this when he said, “And if you are willing to accept it, he (John the Baptist) is Elijah, the one who is to come.” (Mt 11:14).
So, the messenger Malachi announced the messenger John the Baptist who announced the coming of Christ. From Elijah to Malachi to John the Baptist, they all led the way to Christ over the course of 930 years.
In just this one example we see the beauty and the connectivity of the Old Testament, the New Testament and the history of God’s plan being revealed to us.
So, what does all of this mean to us? What is the significance of today’s readings? The significance is that we are all called to be messengers and to prepare the way of the Lord.
In Advent, we prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ, just as Malachi and John the Baptist did. We straighten our roads made crooked by sin, we level our mountains of pride and fill our valleys of despair with hope. We put away the darkness and desires of the flesh and fill ourselves with the Light of Christ. In all of this we prepare the way for our soul to receive Christ. Oh, to feel the immensity of love, the overflowing joy, and the contentment of Christ when He finally comes! This we will do on Christmas Day!
May your hearts be prepared for the Lord and may they be filled with happiness and joy this Christmas. May God say of you, “Well done my good and faithful servant, ….come and share your master’s joy”! (Mt, 25:23)