Day 281: Good and Evil

Nehemiah 13:1-3 In keeping with the Law, the Ammonites and Moabites were excluded from the Temple because of their hostility against Israel, exemplified by Balaam’s story. (CCC 2114)

Ch 13:4-31 Nehemiah went back to Persia but returned to Jerusalem in haste upon learning that the Law was not being kept: Ammonites were in the Temple, Jews were marrying pagans, the Sabbath rest was not being observed, and the Temple funds were being pilfered. Nehemiah took action and did his best to restore proper order, turning to God in prayer all the while. His success may have been limited, as it was later for Ezra, who went through the process of enforcing divorces for all of the Jews in mixed marriages. (CCC 348, 2168, 2171, 2189)

  • The relearning is by no means uniformly smooth.

  • Toward the end of The Book of Nehemiah, we see signs of the people’s struggle to walk in the light of the Torah.

  • In particular, the most powerful symbols of Jewish identity-the Temple, the Sabbath, and monotheism-are threatened.

  • Nehemiah discovers that Tobiah the Ammonite, who opposed him in the restoration of the city wall, has been given a chamber in the Temple.

  • Pressured into keeping up with the commercial practices of the surrounding nations, the Jews are working and trading on the Sabbath.

  • Moreover, as in the days of Ezra’s arrival, the men have resorted to intermarrying with the surrounding peoples (perhaps because of the shortage of Jewish women among those who made the journey of return from Babylon).

  • Although Nehemiah is able to establish reforms in all these areas with little resistance, they point to fault lines in the people’s fidelity to the covenant.

  • When later they are subjected to intense pressure during the Greek conquest, these lines will quickly split the nation and trigger the Maccabean Revolt.

(*Walking With God: A Journey Through The Bible by Tim Gray and Jeff Cavins)

The Book of Malachi

Author and Date:

  • Nothing is known of a prophet named Malachi (“my messenger”); St. Jerome and some Jewish scholars believed Ezra to be the author.

  • The focus of the book, however, is more on the Law (the Deuteronomic tradition; see the introduction to Genesis) than on the ritual worship of the Temple (the priestly tradition of which Ezra belonged).

  • The generally accepted theory is that these oracles came from an unnamed prophet of the late fifth century BC.


  • The book seems directed to the exiles who have returned from Babylon but after the Temple had been rebuilt (515 BC) and closer to the promulgation of Ezra’s religious reforms (398 BC).

Main Themes:

  • The overriding theme of Malachi is that the covenant of old was still in force-that, unlike his people, God himself remained faithful to his word.

  • Malachi offered six “exchanges,” or dialogues (in the literary form known as the “dispute”), in which the prophet stated some truth of the Law, criticized the people for its violation, and answered their objections on specific topics.

  • These topics include God’s preferential love for Israel (cf. 1:1-5), the corruption of priests (cf. 1:6-2:9), the scandal of divorce and mixed marriages (cf. 2:10-16), the “day of the Lord” (cf. 2:17-3:5), lack of generosity in tithing (cf. 3:6-12), and the judgment of the righteous and the wicked (cf. 3:13-4:3).

  • The last of these topics is reminiscent of the problem addressed widely both in the wisdom books and by some of the prophets: the paradox of why sometimes evildoers thrive while the good suffer.

  • Malachi’s response was that justice would prevail in the end, so it was imperative to remain faithful despite any apparent injustice in the present.

  • Striking about this oracles it that the righteous are distinguished from the evildoers without regard for whether they are among the people of Israel or not; Jews and Gentiles alike can be saved by their faith in God and their good works (cf. 3:16-18)

  • Malachi speaks of the “day of the Lord,” but as with other prophets there is no distinction between the coming of the Messiah and the final judgment-something that will not become clear until the teachings of Christ and his Apostles.

  • The epilogue to Malachi (cf. 4:4-6) aptly summarizes the book: The people of Israel must be steadfast in keeping the Law and watch for the coming Revelation of the Lord.

(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)

Malachi 1-4 This book is the last of the twelve minor prophetic books of the Old Testament. Little is known about the life of Malachi. It is possible that this book is a collection of prophecies attributed to him since Malachi is a Hebrew word that means “my messenger.” The prophecies contained in this book include some of the clearest articulations in Scripture regarding the nature and mission of the coming Messiah; the rest of these prophecies manifest God’s desire to have his people respond to his loving overtures toward them.

Ch 1:2-5 God loved Israel, the descendants of Jacob, more than the Edomites, the descendants of Esau. To “hate” Esau in this context does not mean necessarily to have contempt but rather to prefer Jacob over Esau. Since the Edomites had been antagonistic toward Israel, they suffered severe defeats and hardships as punishment.

Ch 1:11 The mass is a perfect Sacrifice (or offering) since it makes present sacramentally the one Sacrifice of Christ. Prayers, sacrifices, and deeds of charity become part of this perfect Sacrifice when united to the Eucharistic Sacrifice. Christ’s true Body and Blood are consecrated at the altar as a memorial of his Passion and Resurrection. Therefore, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass surpasses all of the Old Testament ritual sacrifices, which had to be repeated continuously and could never accomplish true union with God. (CCC 1330, 1350, 2643)

Ch 2:1-9 Malachi’s prophecy warned priests who were not faithful to God’s Law and by their poor example led the people into sin.

Ch 2:6 In his steadfast love, God instructs directly every individual through his inspired Word. God’s teaching culminated with the Incarnation of the Son of God (cf. Jn 18:37). (CCC 217)

Ch 2:7-9 The priests of the Old Testament served as mediators between God and his people for the purpose of offering sacrifice and instruction on the Word of God. However, these sacrifices were never effective in making reparation for sin and reconciling people to God. The perfect Sacrifice of salvation occurred through Christ’s Passion and Death on the Cross. (CCC 1540)

Ch 2:10-17 Malachi opposed marriage between a Jew and a pagan since the believing spouse could be led easily into idolatry. In the spirit of God’s original plan for marriage, he opposed divorce. His prophecy served as a preparation for the New Covenant in which the marriage is indissoluble. (CCC 1611, 2384-2386)

Ch 2:10 Various religions regard their deity as “Father” for a variety of reasons. For Israel, God is Father since, in addition to being the Creator of the world, he made his covenant with Israel, whom he regarded as “his first-born son” (Ex 4:22). Christians call God “Our Father” because, through the grace of Baptism, we have become adopted sons and daughters of God and heirs to everlasting life. This elevation to the level of adopted children of God demonstrates God’s special love toward all those redeemed in Christ. (CCC 178, 238-240, 270, 2780, 2798)

Ch 3:1-5 This passage speaks of a messenger called Lord of the Temple and “messenger of the covenant.” The first messenger is allegedly Elijah (cf. 4:5) but could refer to St. John the Baptist, whom Christ associated with Elijah (cf. Mt 11:7-15). The first four of these verses are read at Mass on the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord because the Church sees Christ as the Lord who comes to his Temple. Christ may be considered also as the messenger of the covenant since he established the New and eternal Covenant. Church tradition has accorded these two messianic roles to Christ present in his public life and his glorious return at his Second Coming. St. Cyril of Jerusalem noted: “[Christ] comes not once, but twice, and the Second Coming will be more glorious than the first...Because of his great mercy, he was made man to teach men and persuade them; when he comes again, all men, whether they want to or not, will be made subject to the power and authority of the King. The words of the prophet Malachi refer to both of these events” (Catecheses ad Illuminandos, 15:1-2)

Ch 3:6-12 From the text we can infer that the people of Israel had a poor year of farming due to a pestilence such as a plague of locusts (“the devourer”). On account of this, the people could not pay their “tithe,” the ten percent of their good crops that would go to the upkeep of the Temple and for the sustenance of the priests. Malachi’s word urged payment of the tithe in spite of a poor harvest in the sure hope that God would bountifully reward their generosity.

Ch 3:13-18 The question of why God allows sinners to prosper (and why the good sometimes suffer) continued to plague Israel. Malachi assured them that God’s judgment would prevail and that evildoers would be brought to justice. (CCC 309-311, 678)

Ch 4:1-3 While unrepentant sinners will be punished on the Day of Judgment, the righteous will enjoy the “sun of righteousness.” A similar term is used in the Canticle of Zechariah (cf. Lk 1:78).

Ch 4:4-6 Elijah was taken bodily into Heaven without dying (cf. 2 Kgs 2:11), and he was widely expected to return in order to proclaim the Messiah. Malachi makes this expectation explicit. Because of this anticipation, people later questioned whether St. John the Baptist or Christ himself is the returning Elijah. John denied being Elijah, but Christ later identified him as Elijah, although it is not completely clear what he actually meant (cf. Mt 17:12-13). These last verses point to the Transfiguration since Christ’s appearance with Moses and Elijah demonstrates that he fulfilled the Law and the prophets and that the New Covenant he established would last forever. (CCC 2583)

(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)

Elijah Returns

  • The book of the post-exilic prophet Malachi, whose name literally means “my messenger,” choses out the prophetic book of the Old Testament.

  • Malachi writes, “Behold, I send my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple” (Mal 3:1); and, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes” (Mal 4:5).

  • In the messianic anticipation of the first century, Malachi’s prophecies were well known, and Elijah’s appearance was greatly anticipated.

  • For this reason, the priests and Levites inquire of John the Baptist whether he is Elijah (Jn 1:21), and the apostles report that many say Jesus is Elijah (Mt 16:14).

  • Jesus answers these questions when he identifies John the Baptist as the long-awaited Elijah (Mt 11:13-14), who prepares the way for Jesus, the Lord and King who comes suddenly and cleanses the Temple.

(*Walking With God: A Journey Through The Bible by Tim Gray and Jeff Cavins)

  • We are at the conclusion of The Return era

  • Malachi is the last prophet of the Old Testament

  • The next prophet to come along will be someone named John the Baptist...perhaps you have heard of him? 😉

  • John the Baptist is related to someone you might know 😉

  • Tomorrow we begin The Maccabean Revolt which includes 1 and 2 Maccabees and the Wisdom Literature including Sirach

  • If you’ve never read The Book of Sirach, you are going to LOVE IT!!

  • Nehemiah is finishing STRONGLY

  • What happens?

  • What always happens!

  • GOLLY!!

  • Yesterday we talked about the story and how it unfolded all the way back to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob

  • Here’s slavery in Egypt and being set free

  • Here’s Moses and Joshua and all those folks


  • They were doing well

  • Yes, we had the prophets who had to speak to the people who had come back from exile because they weren’t building the Temple right away, because they weren’t building the walls

  • AND YET…

  • There seemed to be LESS idolatry

  • There seemed to be LESS division

  • There seemed to be MORE faithfulness

  • What happens next?

  • Nehemiah goes back to spend the summer with King Artaxerxes who had just let him go on alone

  • He did not set Nehemiah free from his service

  • He gave him the chance to go to Jerusalem and Judah and rebuild the walls for this project of renewal

  • So Nehemiah had to go back to Artaxerxes to check in

  • So he comes back to Judah and it seems like THE MORE THINGS CHANGE, THE MORE THINGS STAY THE SAME

  • The people had been unfaithful

  • So Nehemiah takes charge of all these things

  • He makes sure people who have corrupted Temple worship are no longer corrupting Temple worship

  • He makes sure people who have intermarried are no longer taking those steps

  • He even cites King Solomon

  • This is one of those HUGE pieces for us

  • GOSH!!

  • St. Paul is going to say something like this near the end of the New Testament as well

  • “If you want to have a family united in faith, don’t start it out disunited in faith. That is not wise. That is not a wise thing to do.”

  • Nehemiah 13:26, “Did not Solomon king of Israel sin on account of such women? Among the many nations there was no king like him, and he was beloved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel; nevertheless foreign women made even him to sin.”

  • So are we going to do any differently?

  • That is KEY for us

  • Later on in The Book of Malachi, he makes it very very clear in Ch 2

  • Malachi 2:16, “‘For I hate divorce, says the Lord the God of Israel…’”

  • GOSH!!

  • Here are these people who are turning their back on the Covenant

  • The Covenant is ultimately MARRIAGE

  • The Covenant is that “I am yours and you are mine.”

  • That one flesh union between God and His People

  • It is the one flesh union between a man and a woman

  • So you might have caught this in the four short chapters of Malachi

  • He is writing and he is the MESSENGER

  • “Malachi” means “my messenger”

  • It is taking place around the same time as Ezra and Nehemiah

  • He is consistently calling out and doing what Nehemiah does at the end of The Book of Nehemiah

  • He is basically saying, “Ok here are all the things that you are doing…”

  • There are at least six points where Malachi, with the voice of the Lord, utters the word that people will say in rebellion against God

  • Malachi 1:2, “‘I have loved you,’ says the Lord. But you say, ‘How have you loved us?’ ‘Is not Esau Jacob’s brother?’”

  • God says, “I declare this. I love you.”

  • And the response is, “Oh yeah? How have you done that?”

  • And God has to say, “Uh, maybe because I favored you among all the other nations. Maybe because I have not blessed other nations in the way that I have blessed you. Maybe because I fought for you. Maybe because I have fed you. Maybe because I have led you.”

  • All of these things that the people of Israel would challenge God, “Well, how have you done this?”

  • Malachi 1:6, “And if I am a master, where is my fear? Says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. You say, ‘How have we despised your name?’ By offering polluted food upon my altar. And you say, ‘How have we polluted it?’ By thinking that the Lord’s table may be despised. When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil?”

  • This BLINDNESS that corrupted the priesthood

  • This BLINDNESS to God’s love for them



  • Not only that…

  • But in our modern context, there is this word of God in Malachi 2:17, “You have wearied the Lord with your words. Yet you say, ‘How have we wearied him?’ By saying, ‘Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and he delights in them.’”


  • This is a HARD WORD for a lot of us

  • Because as Christians, so often we emphasize that God loves us

  • 100% YES

  • Also as Christians, we FORGET that God loves us

  • We have this tightrope where we go from one extreme to another

  • We either FORGET that God loves us just like in Malachi Ch 1, “I have loved you” and then “Well, how have you loved us?”

  • BUT…

  • There is also the sense that on the other hand we say, “Well then everyone is good. Everyone is fine. There is nothing really evil in the sight of the Lord. Everyone delights the Lord. Even in their evil.”

  • By saying again, “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord and he delights in them.”

  • Or by asking, “Where is the God of justice? He hasn’t shown up. He hasn’t brought justice. He hasn’t brought judgment.”

  • So we have what is commonly known as MORALISTIC THERAPEUTIC DEISM

  • It’s a term coined by Christian Smith, who is a sociologist who is from North Carolina and worked at UNC-Chapel Hill and now works at Notre Dame


  • While we might say, “Well I’m Jewish or Catholic or Protestant or Muslim or Atheist…”

  • Most Americans have this view of God that is MORALISTICALLY THERAPEUTICALLY DEISTIC

  • MORALISTIC means don’t be a jerk

  • THERAPEUTIC means that God is there for you when you WANT him and He doesn’t really bother you when you DON’T WANT him and he’s there to listen to your problems

  • DEISTIC means the “clockmaker God” where he is not really really involved in your life, he just kind of wound up the world and let it go

  • So this belief is that God is there when you WANT him but he is not there when you DON’T WANT HIM

  • It’s this God you can take off the shelf and then put back on the shelf

  • He likes all the things that YOU like

  • He hates all the things that YOU hate

  • He thinks the way that YOU think

  • That’s the idea between MORALISTIC THERAPEUTIC DEISM

  • Here in Malachi Ch 2 we see it on display


  • The last little piece here, because we CANNOT walk past this

  • GOSH!!

  • Malachi Chs 3 and 4 have INCREDIBLE PROPHECIES OF JESUS

  • Malachi Ch 3 is the prophecy of John the Baptist

  • Malachi 3:1-2, “Behold, I send my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?”

  • OH MY GOSH!!

  • SO GOOD!!


  • So we have the prophecy of John the Baptist

  • AND…



  • Not even when he was an adult when Jesus turned over the tables of the merchants

  • BUT…


  • When he was presented in the Temple by Mary and Joseph and Simeon exclaimed, “Now, Lord, let your servant go in peace. For my eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared in the sight of every people, a light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of your children Israel.”

  • SO GOOD!!

  • Lastly, we have Malachi Ch 4 The Great Day of the Lord

  • This is something we read at least once a year in Catholic Mass Lectionary

  • Malachi 4:1, “For behold, the day comes, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble; the day that comes shall burn them up, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings.”








  • Even now, Malachi applies to US

  • Yes, The Day of the Lord came already

  • Jesus, Incarnate here on the earth, in the flesh, 400 plus years after Malachi wrote these words

  • BUT…


  • So we ask the Lord to HELP US BE READY

  • Not only hope to celebrate and commemorate his FIRST COMING

  • But to recognize his PRESENT COMING as he comes into our lives in his Holy Spirit and Power and Truth

  • But also his great FINAL COMING, the Last Judgment

  • Where Jesus will come to judge the living and the dead


  • It’s a long day today!! (I, for one, LOVE IT...I want Fr. Mike to KEEP GOING!!! 🤯🤯🤯)

  • But it’s the last day of The Return

  • Tomorrow, we start The Maccabean Revolt


  • A lot of people have not read many of these books

  • A lot of people who are journeying with us for the last 281 days have gone through a lot of the Bible

  • This will be a NEW STEP FOR SO MANY PEOPLE

  • We are very excited to read 1 and 2 Maccabees

  • We are very excited to read The Book of Sirach

  • We are very excited to read The Book of Wisdom

  • SO GOOD!!

  • Then we go to The Gospel of Luke and we’ll be living in the New Testament!!

  • That’s coming up REALLY SOON




Prayer by Fr. Mike: “Father in Heaven we give you praise. We thank you. We thank you for bringing us all the way through this time of Return. Thank you for bringing us all the way through the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, this story of your people, the people of Israel being brought back to the land by YOU, by your love and by your faithfulness. We thank you also for Haggai and Zechariah, for Esther and her story, for Malachi today, this prophet who prophesied so much, especially of your coming to us, your coming to us in the form of John the Baptist and his words of prophecy and also the Day of the Lord that did come to us when you took on flesh in Lord Jesus and delivered us from our sins. You also will come again. And so we say, “Come Lord Jesus. Come Lord Jesus.” We make this prayer in Jesus’ name. Amen.”