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
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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