“Elijah does come, and he is to restore all things, but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not know him but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of man will suffer at their hands.” (Matthew 17:11-12).
Looking at our readings today from the book of Ecclesiasticus and the Gospel of Matthew, one might easily be tempted to infer that John the Baptist was the re-incarnation of Elijah. Nevertheless, as the Catechism teaches: “When the single course of our earthly life is completed, we shall not return to other earthly lives. There is no reincarnation after death.” (CCC No. 1013). Just as our first reading pays glowing tributes to Elijah, there were many people in the time of Jesus who strongly held the belief that Elijah must return and that unless Elijah returns, the Messiah would not come.
In our Gospel passage Peter, James and John having experienced the transfiguration of Jesus and had become convinced beyond doubt that Jesus is the Messiah asked him: “How come they say Elijah would come again?” Even though Jesus spoke indirectly, they immediately understood that He was referring to John the Baptist as the Elijah that is to return. Can we then say that John the Baptist is a reincarnation of Elijah? Certainly No! John the Baptist was a completely different person from Elijah, but with the kind of life he lived, he became a perfect representation of Elijah and helped to fulfil the prophecy about the return of Elijah.
In the course of this week, we have heard a lot about John the Baptist, the great prophet who prepared the hearts of the people for the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. John the Baptist’s message is simple: “repent for the kingdom of God is at hand.” This was the message he preached both with his words and with his blood at the hands of Herod. As we end this week, the question we must now ask ourselves is: “In what ways do I resemble John the Baptist?” In other words, what efforts am I making to prepare the hearts of others for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ? According to St. John of the Cross, whose memorial we celebrate today, “anyone who seeks happiness in worldly things is like a famished person who opens his mouth to satisfy himself with air.” Indeed, only God bring true satisfaction and happiness to our souls.
Let us Pray: Lord Jesus, increase my faith and trust in you. Amen. Bible Study: Ecclesiasticus 48:1-12, Psalm 80:2-19 and Matthew 17:10-13).