Wednesday of the Fourth Week in Advent
(Malachi 3:1-4.23-24; Luke 1:57-66)
Whatever Malachi had in mind when he wrote that God will send Elijah to “turn the hearts of the father to their children,” we should hear him today as addressing the social pathology of children born outside marriage. Almost forty percent of the births in the United States are made by unwed mothers. As a result the children are more likely to suffer poverty, emotional problems, and learning difficulties. Nevertheless, having children without a vowed partner has become fashionable as high-paid professionals testify to how doable it is.
We understand Malachi as foretelling the coming of the John the Baptist who would castigate sex out of marriage as he did other sins. He would find multiple victims of the abuse. The unintended offspring may be the most aggrieved, but certainly the individuals directly involved are not left unscathed, and society – like a cable under constant stress -- is weakened. God, who loves His people immensely, cannot help but take offense.
God also acts to relieve the situation. He sent John to warn of punishment for sinners, and now He gives us Jesus who will employ another strategy. He will expose the barrenness of self-love. It gratifies some immediate desire but will end in the coldness of the earth. Emulating his care for others -- especially for one’s own offspring -- puts one close to the path of eternal happiness.