Saturday of Week 2 of Advent – Gospel

Commentary on Matthew 17:10-13

As mentioned in the First Reading commentary, the Gospel also references the prophet Elijah. The passage follows immediately after the Transfiguration, when three of Jesus’ disciples – Peter, James and John – were given a glimpse of Jesus as the glorious Son of his heavenly Father. During that experience, they saw Moses, representing the Law, and Elijah, representing the prophetic tradition, speaking with Jesus. As such, this clearly endorses the mission of Jesus as Messiah, including what he had told them about his suffering, dying and rising again. A prophecy which had upset them very much.

On the way down from the mountain, the disciples ask Jesus, “Why do the scribes say that Elijah has to come first?” To which Jesus replies:

I tell you that Elijah has come already and they did not recognise him but treated him as they pleased.

Jesus does not really answer the question but confirms that Elijah will come again. In fact, says Jesus, he has already come, but he was not recognised and he was mistreated, just as Jesus himself will not be recognised and be rejected. The disciples immediately realised that Jesus was speaking of John the Baptist.

The role of the returned Elijah was to pave the way for the coming of the Messiah, and that is exactly what John the Baptist did. The First Reading from the book of Sirach is a panegyric of Elijah, but much of it can be applied to John the Baptist.

Once again, let us see ourselves in the role of John, sharing with him the responsibility of preparing the way for Jesus to come into people’s lives. And, like John and as disciples of Jesus, we too can expect to have to face challenges, opposition and perhaps hardships. “The disciple is not above the master.”

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