"The kingdom of God, beloved brothers and sisters, has drawn near," wrote St. Cyprian. "The reward of life, the joy of eternal salvation, the perpetual happiness and the possession of paradise once lost are now coming as the world passes away." Cyprian, the bishop of Carthage, wrote in the third century. Was he wrong in saying the kingdom of God is near? Or that the world is passing away? No, and this week's readings can help us more deeply appreciate his perspective.
Centuries earlier, the prophet Malachi wrote of an approaching day of judgment and justice, a day "blazing like an oven, when all the proud and all evildoers will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire, leaving them neither root nor branch ..." Malachi was writing in the fifth century B.C., after the people had returned to Jerusalem from exile, and he proclaimed the need for deep spiritual and institutional reform, especially among the priesthood. Those who fear and follow God, he said, will see the "sun of justice" arising, a sun with "healing rays." The prophet wrote of a future messenger — identified as Elijah, the prophet — who would arrive "before the day of the Lord comes, the great and terrible day" (Mal 3:23).
That messenger was John the Baptist, and the "sun of justice" was Jesus of Nazareth. As John preached repentance, he also preached about a man mightier than himself. "I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire." Everyone will be judged by the Son of Justice, and this strong truth is found throughout the Gospels. The difficulty, however, is while God's judgment has begun and is ongoing, it will not be fully realized and revealed until the End.
Jennifer Rey is the web editor of Our Sunday Visitor Publishing.
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