Malachi 3:5-12 / Philippians 1:12-18 / Luke 1:68-79
By Fr. Chris Linebarger
I've been surrounded by women my whole adult life. My wife and three daughters created an atmosphere of beauty and warmth in our home. On rare occasion, I felt smothered by all things female and as a self-defense mechanism, I attempted to exert authority and coercion over my family. You can guess how that went!
Why are we so convinced that coercion, power, and violence are behind true authority? For far too long, this was my image of God. I've been a Christian since I was a child, but truth be told, I haven't been too interested in Jesus for most of my life. If I had been, I would have understood what Jesus was attempting to tell us about God... that He is love. Love is not just another attribute of God. It is his very essence. Jesus teaches us that God does not demand sacrifice from us. He actually doesn't demand anything. What he desires for and from us is love, humility, and humanity.
Our Old Testament reading for today comes from the Prophet Malachi. We actually don't know who this Malachi is. Most likely that isn’t even his name. Malachi simply means "the messenger." And his message to God's people is simple. You've forgotten how to worship and you've forgotten how to love. The Temple had already been rebuilt, but the people's hearts were still hardened. So Malachi writes, "Then I will draw near to you for judgment; I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow and the orphan, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts."
We shouldn't see these verses as a promise of retribution: "Stop doing these things... or else I'm coming down there to roll some heads!" Rather, this is a wake-up call to the truth: when we don't love, our humanity is stripped from us. Jesus became human to show us this. It's what we contemplate during Advent and Christmas.
Will we hear this message? Will we follow Jesus or just play religion, as usual? Will we choose to love, especially the most vulnerable among us and the sojourners at our borders? It's never too late to love. It's never too late to be human.
Lord, have mercy.