Saturday of the Second Week of Advent | Ximena DeBroeck
WAITING FOR THE MESSIAH
A whirlwind of fire, a chariot of fiery horses –these images are unsettling and would evoke fear or at least uneasy feelings in most of us–, especially without any context. The reference point is the prophet Elijah, who is mentioned in today’s reading from Sirach as well as in the gospel reading. But what do these readings have to do with Advent, and how can they inspire us during this time of preparation? Elijah was a prophet who ministered approximately nine centuries before the birth of Christ; his deeds are narrated in first Kings, chapters 17-19, and his final moments are recounted in 2 Kings 2 :1-12, which is precisely where we find the context for the whirlwind of fire.
In his role as a prophet, Elijah challenged the people of his day to return to the Lord. He challenged their belief in false gods and showed them the works of the true God of Israel. He was persecuted, was afraid, run away, and even asked the Lord to take his life. His life as a prophet was demanding and costly. Malachi, the last prophet of the Old Testament, announced that Elijah would come back before the coming of the Lord (Mal 3: 23-24). In fact, at the end of the Shabbat service, and at the end of the Passover service, those gathered sing a concluding song with the words, “Elijah, may he soon come to us, with the Messiah the son of David...and bring the redeemer and with him praise...”
And so, it is here that we discover the connection of Elijah to our Advent time of preparation. Grounded in our Jewish roots, we are invited to remember Malachi’s promise that Elijah will come ahead of the Messiah. And at the same time, we are invited to ponder the prophetic witness of Elijah. Today, we celebrate the memorial of John of the Cross, the sixteenth century Carmelite priest, who like Elijah challenged those of his day, who was persecuted, and yet persevered in pointing the way to God. How are we accepting the prophetic invitation to be like Elijah, to challenge beliefs in false gods, and to witness to the true God? How are we preparing for the return of our Messiah, Jesus Christ?
PRAYER: Lord, we thank you for the lives of witness of Elijah, of John the Baptist, of John of the Cross, and of so many other faithful disciples. Guide us to turn to you and seek your face. Give us courage to live as true prophets and comfort our fears as we prepare for the birth of the Messiah in our hearts. Amen.