Vol: 44, No.56 31ST SUNDAY OF THE YEAR ( A) November 05 2017  
 
LITURGY AND LIFE

The prophetic words of Malachi against the abuses propagated by the priests of his time can be better understood when seen against its historical background. The background is the rebuilding of the Temple that was destroyed and also the rehabilitation of the people who returned from exile in Babylon. When the Jews returned from the Exile, the Prophets Haggai and Zechariah supported them in rebuilding the Temple and the restoration of the levish community.
While the construction of the Temple had been completed at the prompting of Haggai and Zechariah, the apathy and the disillusionment within the restoration community which permitted the temple precinct to lie in ruins for nearly twenty years, continued to permeate the group. The material prosperity predicted by Haggai (2:6-9) never came to pass, and the streaming migration of former Jewish captives foreseen by Zechariah (8:1-8) never occurred. The completion of the Temple ushered in no messianic age. Zechariah’s call for a deeper spiritual life went unheeded.
It is against this background that Malachi prophesies in Jerusalem around 450 B.C. The prophet’s message focuses on the quality of religious and social life in the restoration community. The priesthood showed only contempt and indifference to ceremonial and moral purity and the general populace had followed the lead of the priests (2:8-9). In this case, the behaviour of the priests was far from exemplary and the people followed suit, thereby creating a situation that was not proper of the people of God. In order to correct the abuses, Malachi steps in with his prophecies.

 

The Book of Malachi is the last book of the Old Testament. Malachi is the Hebrew expression meaning “my messenger”. Jewish tradition remembered Malachi along with Haggai and Zechariah as men of the great synagogue.
The power and status of the priestly and administrative class at the time of Jesus are graphically presented in today’s gospel.
The Scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat since they had virtually taken over the priestly function of instructing the people regarding covenant law. Because they are the conveyers of the covenant law Jesus instructs his listeners to follow them in this. “Do not do as they do” includes also their interpretations of the Law. For the common people the only access to hearing the Scriptures was in the synagogues dominated by the Pharisees and the Scribes. The “heavy burdens, hard to bear” they place on people’s shoulders are their interpretations of the Law and the imposition of these interpretations on others. Jesus taught a different attitude towards the Law, where his yoke was pleasant and his burden light (Mt 11:30).
What message can we take home from today’s liturgical celebration? One simple lesson is that selfishness and authoritarianism pay no dividends. Both Jesus and Malachi were able to challenge the powerful ruling class of their time because they did not aspire for power and wealth. They stood for the oppressed class and empathized with them. Desire for power and wealth can blind us. Let us have gentler qualities of humility and service-mindedness which distinguish us as Christians.

– Dr Augustine Kanachikuzhy, ssp
November 2017 READINGS OF THE WEEK Psalter Week 3
06 Mon (G) Rom 11:29-36/ Ps 69:30-31, 33-34, 36/ Lk 14:12-14
07 Tue (G) Rom 12:5-16/ Ps 131:1-3/ Lk 14:15-24
08 Wed (G) Rom 13:8-10/ Ps 112:1-5, 9/ Lk 14:25-33
09 Thu (W) DEDICATION OF THE LATERAN BASILICA IN ROME, Feast
Ezek 47:1-2, 8-9, 12/ Ps 46:2-3, 5-6, 8-9/ 1 Cor 3:9-11, 16-17/ Jn 2:13-22
10 Fri (W) St Leo the Great Rom 15:14-21/ Ps 98:1-4/ Lk 16:1-8
11 Sat (G) St Martin of Tours Rom 16:3-9, 16, 22-27/ Ps 145:2-5, 10-11/ Lk 16:9-15
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