Monday of the Fourth Week of 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 pathologies of children born outside marriage. More than forty percent of the births in the United States today are made to 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 with highly paid professionals testifying to how satisfying 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 whose individual strands are being severed -- is weakened. God, who loves His people immensely, cannot help but take offense.
God also acts to relieve the situation. First, He sends John to warn sinners of the harm they cause themselves as well as others. Then, He gives us Jesus who, abounding in joy, shows us that the way to eternal life follows a path of care for others.