Saturday of the Second Week of Advent

December 15, 2018 / By: Bernard Brady

Sir 48:1-4, 9-11/Mt 17:9a, 10-13

In today’s first reading, Sirach looks back into history and recalls the time of the great prophet Elijah, “whose words were as a flaming furnace,” who “brought down fire,” and who was “taken aloft…in a chariot with fiery horses.” In the tradition, Elijah was linked to God’s action in the future and the end of times. In our second reading, Matthew picks up the theme that Elijah will “come and restore all things” preparing the way for the Messiah. He then links Elijah with John the Baptist. His point? Salvation history is being fulfilled in this very moment.

Elijah – the forceful and self-described, zealous prophet for God – is a stunning character in the Old Testament. He forcefully acts and preaches against the idolatry of the people and their infidelity, yet at the same time, he has an expansive view of who counts, as he displays a remarkable compassion for a pagan widow. His life is marked by a certain frustration and so he goes to the mountain where Moses received the Ten Commandments to complain to God. He has worked so hard, he says, yet he feels as if he is the only believer left in the world. God corrects him and assures him that he is mistaken – a note to all of us when we feel that call to be zealous, that we are more pure than the rest. 

If his life is marked by drama and dramatic images, his time on the mountain is marked by the opposite. God is revealed not on the strong wind or the earthquake but in the “sheer silence." It is in the silence where Elijah “hears” God.

Oh the drama of contemporary Christmas time. Oh the need to make everyone and everything good and right. Oh the idolatry of the trappings of the times. When will Elijah return? He has already come.  Sometimes it is not in the strong winds or the earthquakes or the fires, but in the “sheer silence.” Return to your holy mountain every once-in-a-while as you embrace the drama of these days, for God can be found there.

Bernard Brady
Professor, Theology