At the beginning of his Gospel, Mark refers to a few words from this passage in Malachi: “See, I am sending my messenger to prepare my way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who shall stand when he appears?”
The prophet Malachi was attempting to renew worship in the Jerusalem Temple. He felt that the priests who administered worship had become too lax; they were failing both to perform rituals properly and to instruct the people in the way of God’s justice. He was calling for a new beginning in the people’s relationship with God and with one another.
Mark’s immediate reason for quoting Malachi is to point to John the Baptist as the one who prepares the way of Jesus. And he is also foreshadowing an important part of the story that follows. Jesus will come to the Temple, and like Malachi, will criticize Temple leadership. Jesus offers no opinion on the ritual itself but is upset with the lack of compassion for the powerless and the poor. He sees Temple leadership as part of a powerful elite that is more concerned with protecting its wealth and status than sharing the good gifts of God with all people. Jesus teaches that religion is empty when it lacks compassion.
Holy God, you call us to worship you and to give you praise. But our worship becomes worthless when we forget your call to social justice. You have filled the world with good things that are meant to be shared with all, not concentrated in the hands of a few. Breathe your Spirit into us, so that our hymns and prayers flow into actions that create a world of economic security for all your people. Inspire us to follow the way of your Son, in whose name we pray. Amen.