Saturday of the Second Week of Advent
Sirach 48:1-4,9-11 + Matthew 17:9,10-13
Then the disciples understood that He was speaking to them of John the Baptist.
Both the First Reading and the Gospel Reading of this morning’s Mass speak of the Old Testament prophet Elijah. His importance in the Old Testament is highlighted by the fact that he (along with Moses) appears with Jesus at the Transfiguration.
There are eighteen prophetic books in the Old Testament. Yet Elijah’s importance is highlighted by the fact that he’s also mentioned within the Wisdom literature of the Old Testament: in the case of this morning’s First Reading, in the Book of Sirach. In this passage, Elijah is brought to our attention not only because he has a prophecy for us to attend to, and not only because at the end of his earthly life he ascended to Heaven in a flaming chariot. Such is the holiness of Elijah that the person is “blessed” who “shall have seen [him] and who falls asleep in [his] friendship.”
In the Gospel Reading, however, Jesus mysteriously identifies St. John the Baptist with Elijah. While Jesus does not elaborate upon this identification, we know that Elijah and St. John the Baptist are both ultimately important for the same reason: because they foreshadow the advent of the Messiah. As we reflect upon the prophetic ministry of Elijah, we ask the Lord to allow Elijah’s words and deeds to motivate us to accept Christ when He comes.