Malachi is at once both ominous and utterly hopeful that God will visit His people. For those who have always wanted at hell fire and brimstone homily, Malachi 3, 2-3 is your verse. For those who are waiting joyfully for God’s visitation, then look to the first and last verse of this prophecy.

The refining fire has been transposed into an image of hell, or purgatory at best. It is read since the early Middle Ages as dark and negative and fearful. It is a passage that is used to justify the teaching about purgatory, and it will be too easy for the self-righteous to get lost and caught up into the rhetoric of a fear based religion.

This is arguably not the intention of the prophet to scare and create a fear based religious view of God. Here the prophet is using images of hope. The refiner of metals gets all excited at this stage in the process of turning raw ores into things of valuable. It is an awesome experience filled with excitement to watch the valuable end product emerge from the intense heat and fills the refiner with satisfaction. The same is true of the fuller turning wool filled with the grit of the pasture into the purest white material for proper robes, because the whiter the more valuable.

IN addition to the imagery are the verbs that express both excitement, anticipation, and joy. “Suddenly”, “desire”, “refining”, “will please” is not the language of the full religious experience. This ought to be the focus of the homily.

Alan Hartway

Theological Studies at Catholic Theological Union, Chicago IL; Master of Fine Arts, Poetics, at Naropa University, Boulder CO 1996; Master of Arts, Greek Classics, University of Colorado, Boulder CO 2012; Taught at Naropa University from 1999 through 2015; Chair of Interdisciplinary Studies from 2007-2015; Member of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, Kansas City Province since 1974; Pastor at Guardian Angel Catholic Church, Mead, CO, ministry from 2007-2020 Currently Retired

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