He who is to come … has come already
Third Saturday in Advent
Sirach 48:1-4, 9-11 ; Psalms 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19 ; Matthew 17:10-13
Elijah will indeed come and restore all things; but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him but did to him whatever they pleased.
Matthew 17, 11-12
There were many people, in Jesus’ day, who were renowned for their religious fervor – men and women who adamantly upheld proper doctrines of faith and who praised the prophets with their lips. Jesus shocked his disciples by explaining to them that some of these fervent followers were actually very far from following God’s ways. Some of these religious people couldn’t even recognize Elijah when he stood right in front of them – in the person of John the Baptist. The problem with these people wasn’t with their religion, or their understanding of it; the problem was with their stubborn hearts. Their stubbornness prevented them from recognizing Elijah, and it prevented them from recognizing the Messiah as well.
The day will come, I’m quite certain, when my life will be called into account. On that day, I don’t believe I’m going to be presented with a list of orthodox religious assertions so that I can have my particular views measured against that standard. Rather, I suspect that I will be reminded of the fact that Elijah, in one guise or another, has appeared in my own life to urge me to forsake the ways of folly and falsehood and to prepare my heart for God’s arrival. Did I recognize him (or her); or did I simply do “whatever I pleased”? That’s the only question that’s going to count.
The easy part of religion – and the fun part too – is when I get to see how blessed I am to have to have the Truth laid out for me to understand. The hard part, the part that’s easy to resist, comes when ‘Elijah’ challenges me to change my ways. That’s when I have to shake stubbornness out of my heart.
Jesus, grant me the grace to recognize your presence, and to follow you joyfully.