In order to understand this Sunday’s

OLD TESTAMENT READING [MALACHI 4: 1 – 2a] we must focus on the closing sentence. There we read the Lord’s invitation to conversion and repentance – “But for you who fear my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings.” Despite the opening verse which emphasises the fate of those who continue in hardhearted waywardness, we are led to the more important reality of our God’s plan. This is to respond to our efforts to reform our lives and living. Once again it needs to be emphasised that the fearing of his name means a reverence of his living existence in our lives, our own time and our own particular situations.

In addition, it is vital for us to recognise that this reverence for him must include a genuine desire to accept that it is always possible for us to alter course and enter into a deeper recognition of his invitation to include him and his norms for a more productive living of our Christian lives. Once we move into a more loving and committed relationship with him there will always be a

“healing in its wings.”

This healing comes through our efforts to live our lives in a clear and determined relationship with him

. We ourselves have to be creative in our outreach to him who is our God. God is not a destroyer, he does not react to us in anger but his desire is to RESPOND to us in love. However, he must have something from us to which it is possible for him to respond. Our problem exists in our own ability to self-destruct. It is this self-destruction which the prophet Malachi describes in today’s reading. Our Christian God never rejects or disowns us. However, we are always capable of rejecting and disowning him.

These verses communicate one of my favourite scriptural lessons. This teaches us that the working out of our salvation is a two-way street. We have too many distractions, are in too much of a hurry, become careless, and overtake against the unbroken white line on a blind rise. We self-destruct! Too often we overtake the good Lord. He is not going fast enough for our convenience, or we ignore the unbroken white line which he has so painstakingly laid down. We forget, ignore or overlook the fact that God’s speed limits and solid white lines have healing in their wings.

This brings, then, brings us to

TODAY’S GOSPEL [LUKE 21: 5 – 19]. “Take heed that you are not led astray …. many will come … do not go after them.” In other words obey the ‘rules of the road See how well these verses go with the whole of Malachi’s message. However, there is another connection, rich in meaning, between these two readings. Malachi, as we have seen, refers to my name – the name we have to holdwith reverence and love. Now see the words of Jesus in our Gospel extract when he, like the prophet, sounds a clear warning … “many will come in my name, saying ‘I am he’ … do not go after them.”.

The warnings of Malachi are to be understood as the objects and focusses which are gone after when we are not holding fast to

THE NAME. Too often we are inclined to ‘hedge our bets’ by favouring our ‘own name’ by attempting an easier, more comfortable, method of holding fast to HIS name. In this context I am often reminded of the old-fashioned parlour game of ‘pinning the tail on the donkey’ when we are blindfolded. We should “not be terrified” to remove the blindfold and actually know where precisely the position of the tale should, in reality, be.

In addition, in today’s Gospel, Jesus accepts the realities that there are times and occasions in our life when we are presented with difficult circumstances which challenge us head-on. Then it is imperative that we hold fast to the name because there it is that we discover the rising of the sun which brings healing in its wings.

THEN, and only then, do we find that the Lord “will give you a mouth and a wisdom.”

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