When people tell me they think the Old Testament prophets are irrelevant or simply artifacts of the past, I often point to the prophet Malachi.
Consider the challenges he faced: a poorly catechized people, priest scandals, low offertories, widespread divorce, and general spiritual malaise among God’s people.
Sound at all familiar? Truly, there is nothing new under the sun.
(This is the sixth part of a series where Thomas Smith takes a closer look at six prophets from the Old Testament, God’s messengers. If you missed the previous posts, you can click here to catch up!)
It’s hard to believe that things could look so grim in the time of Malachi. After all, the people have returned to the Promised Land under the Persian decrees. The temple has been rebuilt and the city of Jerusalem fortified. Strong leaders were given to them by God, including Ezra, Nehemiah, and the prophets Haggai and Zechariah. Their daily rhythms have returned to relative normalcy.
These seem like ideal conditions, and yet Malachi’s time reminds us that the spiritual life requires constant care and vigilance. St. John Paul II warned us that we can easily fall into what he called “hollow ritualism” (Catechesi Tradendae, 23), or simply going through the motions.
It was a danger for the Jews offering continual sacrifices in the Temple, and it can be one for us who attend Mass daily or weekly.
Renewing the Covenant
Then as now, we hear the heart cry of God:
“Return to me, and I will return to you.”Malachi 3:7, RSV
That turning is the ongoing process of conversion.
It requires more than just outward participation. There must be an interior transformation, a conforming of our lives to Christ, a renewing of our mind (Romans 12:2). Every day we must intentionally cooperate with God’s grace.
One of the helpful ways I have found to do that is to pray the simple prayer of renewal that Pope Francis gave us in Evangelii Gaudium. It is so simple, yet profound. It gathers together the great themes of Scripture, especially the message and mission of the Prophets. I’ve been praying it every day and have shared it with thousands of Catholics on a prayer card. This prayer has become part of my consciousness now and it speaks to me throughout the day to more clearly see Christ and be Christ in the world.
Let’s close this series by praying it together:
“Lord, I have let myself be deceived; in a thousand ways I have shunned your love, yet here I am once more, to renew my covenant with you. I need you. Save me once again, Lord, take me once more into your redeeming embrace.”Evangelii Gaudium, 3
You May Also Like:
Prophets: Messengers of God’s Mercy [Bible study program]
How We Participate in Divine Mercy [CFR video]
Divine Mercy [Abiding Together podcast]
Thomas Smith is the co-author of Wisdom: God’s Vision for Life, Revelation: The Kingdom Yet to Come and The Prophets: Messengers of God’s Mercy. He is an international presenter for The Great Adventure Bible Timeline. Bringing a wealth of experience and insight on the Word of God to audiences across the U.S., Thomas is a repeat guest on EWTN and Catholic radio as well as a sought after parish mission and conference speaker. Thomas Smith has taught as an adjunct professor at the St. Francis School of Theology in Denver, and is the former Director of the Denver Catholic Biblical School and the Denver Catechetical School. He lives on his family ranch in southeastern Idaho and writes for his website www.gen215.org.
This article was first posted on The Great Adventure Blog, Ascension Blog’s former home, October 16, 2014. To learn more about The Great Adventure Bible study click below.
Featured image—The Prophet Malachi, from Prophets and Sibyls—by Francesco Rosselli and Baccio Baldini (1480-90), sourced from Wikimedia Commons
Thank you for drawing our attention to that beautiful prayer, we are so graced to have Pope Francis in these times. He seems to be a simple shepherd, I pray our world will respond and return to seeking God’s ways, not man’s ways.
Hi Gig Rose…Just thought I would touch base with you…Hope you are doing well. I pray that this Advent God will gift you with all that you need to sustain you in the life ahead…peace, joy, happiness, courage, strength for the journey…and most of his Love…Have a blessed Advent, and a very Merry Christmas.
P.S. Keep smiling!! 🙂
This email series on the Messengers was so timely as I am studying The Bible Timeline and am at midpoint – The Divided Kingdom and then The Exile. Thank you so much for enriching my study and the closing prayer of Pope Francis is just beautiful. It is one to keep and keep praying.
Thank you Thomas Smith and Ascension Press for this mini-Bible Study.
A year and a half ago. I was told I had about 18 months to live. I started on my “Bible Bucket” I would each book straight through one chapter each day. I prayed to the Holy Spirit as to what order these books would be read. God has graciously extended my life. Isaiah , Jeremiah and Joel were on my firs list. I have added Hosea, Malachi and Ezekiel to my Bucket List.
Thank you again for this study.
Thank you for the reminder that we are ever moving forward and needing to renew our covenant with God, just as the Israelites did throughout the Old Testament.
Thank you for this study. It just reminds me that the Bible contains so many prayerful thoughts that come from God. In our “instant answers and rewards” society, it is a breath of fresh air and a wake up call for me to stop and think and set a bit more time to pray. Like Avila’s comment, we need to renew our covenant with the Lord. Without God, we are nothing.
Thomas, I met you at the NCBC this pass June as a group leader from Louisiana, yes I was the one who had traveled the furthest to come to the Conference. I’m the one that gave Jeff the pen made from Olive Wood from Bethlehem. Also, I have been teaching The Great Adventure Bible Timeline for many years now, along with other Ascension Press study programs. After the end of each programs many of my facilitators tell me that the students thirst for more about their Catholic faith. My hats off to Karyn O’Neal (my personal guide for the NCBC), Jeff, Sarah and yourself for an outstanding program that brings a whole new way of learning how to read and understand the Bible. The Catholic community is so lucky to have talented people like yourself to bring the Good News to strengthen our faith in Jesus Christ. Looking forward to the future Meet the Messengers Prophets! Blessings and peace my friend in Jesus Christ, Reed Chauffe
Excellent, Tom! Wishing you a blessed Lenten season and a happy Valentine’s Day! Peace