December 23, 2022 –
Late Advent Weekday
But who will endure the day of his coming?
Today’s First Reading is taken from the last book of the Old Testament, the Book of the Prophet Malachi. There is a certain harshness or strictness to this passage that might seem out of place with the humble birth of the gentle Jesus. Yet Malachi’s message is needed if we are to celebrate Christmas fittingly.
Many passages in the Old Testament’s eighteen prophetic books are apocalyptic in nature. That is to say, they are prophecies not just about the distant future, but about the “end times” and what the Church calls the “Last Things”: Heaven and hell, death and judgment. Today’s First Reading is such a passage.
The Lord God speaks of the coming “day of the Lord” as “the great and terrible day”. He speaks also about a purgation that will take place akin to “the refiner’s fire” and “the fuller’s lye”. Yet what is the goal of this purification? The answer to that question helps us understand the meaning of Advent and Christmastide.
Malachi prophecies that the Lord’s coming is about more pure sacrifice being offered to God. He foretells that “the Lord whom you seek” “will purify the sons of Levi, refining them like gold or like silver that they may offer due sacrifice to the Lord.” This helps us as Christians to focus what we’re about during these holy seasons. The Lord comes in the person of the infant Jesus so that He might grow up and offer His very Self on Calvary, thereby becoming the source of all our worship as Christians. When we enter into this, Malachi’s prophecy can come to pass: “Then the sacrifice of Judah and Jerusalem will please the Lord, as in the days of old, as in years gone by.”