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Saturday, second week of Advent

December 16, 2006

Blessed Saturday!

Sirach 48:1-4, 9-11 (the glorious prophet Elijah will come to put things right before the Day of the Lord)
Psalm 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19 “Lord, make us turn to You, let us see Your Face and we shall be saved”
+ Matthew 17:10-13 (speaking of John the Baptist, Jesus says that Elijah has come)

Our readings give us yet another prophesy and its fulfillment. “You [Elijah] are destined, it is written, in time to come to put an end to wrath before the day of the Lord, to turn back the hearts of fathers toward their sons, and to re-establish the tribes of Jacob. Blessed is he who shall have seen you before he dies” (Sirach 48:10-11). Elijah is known as the greatest of the Old Testament prophets. He’s the one who announced a three-year drought in the land of Israel as God’s judgment on King Ahab’s idolatry (I Kings 17), who faced off with 450 prophets of Baal to bring down fire from Heaven (I Kings 18:20-40), who twice called down fire from Heaven on soldiers who had been sent to apprehend him (II Kings 1:9-12) and who was finally taken up to Heaven in a fiery chariot (II Kings 2:1-12). As we read in the passage from Sirach, he was expected to return to prepare the way for the Messiah.

As Jesus was coming down the mountain of Transfiguration, having just spent time with Moses and Elijah, His disciples asked him about the prophesy. “Why do the Scribes say that Elijah must come first?” Jesus explained that Elijah had already come, but “‘they…did to him whatever they wished. So also shall the Son of Man suffer at their hands.’ Then the disciples understood that he had spoken to them of John the Baptist” (Matthew 17:10-13).

Preparing the way for the Messiah is a rough job. For Elijah it meant spending years in hiding (I Kings 17), being hunted down by a bloodthirsty queen (Jezebel, I Kings 19:2-3) and living without luxuries. He wore a hairy skin garment with a leather belt (II Kings 1:8) and shared the bread & water of a poor widow (I Kings 17:10-16). John the Baptist, who came in the spirit and power of Elijah, also knew what it was to live an austere life & to be hunted. He lived in the desert, wore camel’s hair, and ate locusts & wild honey (Matthew 3:4). He was imprisoned by King Herod because of another bloodthirsty queen, Herodias (Matthew 14:3-4), and finally paid with his life for daring to call a king to repentance (Matthew 14:6-12).

We, too, need to prepare the way for the Messiah; we need to prepare the way for Jesus to come to us in tomorrow’s Mass, then at Christ-Mass, and finally to come for us at our “end of time”, which for most of us will probably be the day of our death. We can expect that preparation to cost us something in comfort and popularity. We can also expect it to be well worth the price! Elijah and St. John the Baptist are in Heaven now, part of the great cloud of witnesses who are cheering us on (Hebrews 12:1).

May the courage of those who have gone before us inspire us to take sacrifices in stride
in light of the great reward that awaits us at the wedding feast of the Lamb.

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