Mal 3:1-4; Heb 2:14-18; Lk 2:22-40
Feast of the Presentation of the Lord
It took me awhile this morning to figure out the reference the prophet Malachi makes to the “fuller’s lye.” Once I did – with a little help from a friend who teaches science- the power of the passage came through loud and clear. A fuller, in Biblical times, worked with cloth. His/her job was not to create it, but to restore it to it’ former quality. Often the job involved the use of lye – an ancient version of Chlorox bleach – in order to brighten white garments.
When you couple this image with that of the “refiner’s fire” (I remembered enough chemistry to know that heating certain metals such as gold, silver or iron was a way of removing impurities from them) a rather sobering picture of the Messiah emerges. Yes, it’s true that God makes a promise through Micah that Israel will be liberated – but the process is not going to be much fun. The purification will involve lots of cleaning and pressing and burning – all aimed at scrapping away the crud, and none of it too pleasant.
We are still a long way from Lent and I’m in no mood to start thinking about all that Repentence. (I haven’t even used all of the gift certificates I received over the Christmas holidays yet.) What Malachi reminds us about, however, is that even during these quiet, calm days of Ordinary Time God is very much at work. What appear to be merely the annoyances and struggles of daily living might also be the means that God is using to clean, press and purify us.
It’s not that God wants us to suffer, or that God sends us suffering – we do enough of that to each other. But it is true, I think, that within the challenges and trials we face- or,more accurately, in the way we face them – Christ offers us a most urgent invitation: Will you love just a little more? Will you believe just a bit more deeply that the fires which seem to be devastating the landscape of your life might actually hold within them the seeds of your rebirth?
(3rd millennium pilgrim)