Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?”
He said in reply, “Elijah will indeed come and restore all things; but I tell you that Elijah has already come,
Yesterday and today I notice the word come in our gospel readings. Advent is all about the coming of the Christ, the Anointed One.
Anointed refers to anyone who is sent by God the Father, whether as prophet, priest or king. We understand Jesus as all three. As prophet of God he speaks of justice and mercy; as priest he gives himself to the Father on our behalf; as the descendant of David he assumes a royal throne, albeit a cross, and reigns over the Universe.
We have to notice also that the Messiah who is sent by God is accompanied by the Spirit, whom God has sent. Whenever we say the name Jesus with his title Christ, we acknowledge the Holy Spirit which impels him.
In today's gospel, his disciples question Jesus about the popular belief that Elijah must come first before the Messiah will appear. You remember that Elijah had not died in the ordinary way of mortals. He had disappeared in a fiery chariot as his disciple Elisha watched in amazement. The chariot with its angelic horses disappeared into the sky with the firebrand Prophet. If many felt safer for his disappearance they were nonetheless uneasy about his possible return. I have heard that Jewish women warn unruly children that Elijah will get ya if ya don't watch out.
However the prophet Malachi predicted Elijah's return not as dreadful but as a final opportunity to repent.
Now I am sending to youThat's how Jesus described Saint John the Baptist. He had offered "salvation by the forgiveness of their sins" in the Jordan River to everyone who would be baptized.
Elijah the prophet,
Before the day of the LORD comes,
the great and terrible day;
He will turn the heart of fathers to their sons,
and the heart of sons to their fathers,
Lest I come and strike
the land with utter destruction.
Today's conversation between Jesus and his disciples took place as they descended the mountain of the transfiguration. Jesus had been clearly revealed as the Messiah. He had come.
Tomorrow is Gaudete Sunday. Although our Advent is a full 28 days, we're already halfway there. The time of penance is now as we consider our unworthiness and our need for an Anointed One to come save us. We have failed and must fail again and again unless One comes from God to deliver us from our hopeless predicament.