Saturday, Second Week of Advent
“Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?” – the disciples asked Jesus on their way down the mountain after his Transfiguration (Mt. 17:10). What was the scriptural basis for the scribes to promote such a teaching? Mal. 4:5 says “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes.” Of course, the gospel of the day comes to an end with the disciples coming to the realization that the Elijah who is to come was, in fact, John the Baptist.
But what disturbs me most is the day which Prophet Malachi referred to as “the great and awesome day.” If John the Baptist were to be understood as the new Elijah then the Lord whom he heralded has already come and gone. If so, what was so great and so awesome about that day of the Lord’s former coming?
Was it that day when the Word incarnated …when the Word was virginally conceived in the womb of a peasant girl? Apart from Mary, the whole world was oblivious to such profound divine intervention. What about the nativity of Jesus at Bethlehem? Except for the guiding star or the angels singing alleluia, there was nothing spectacular about it. As a matter of fact, that day, the Word Incarnate was cradled in a manger of a borrowed barn! How about the day of our Lord’s baptism, or the Transfiguration? Both these brief yet decisive revelations had but a very small audience. Only John the Baptist saw the Holy Spirit hovering over the baptized Jesus while the Transfiguration was witnessed only by Peter, James, and John. Was Malachi referring to his resurrection or ascension for that matter? The former was witnessed by none; all they found was an empty tomb. The latter was witnessed only by his closest disciples.
Could that be the day when Jesus gave himself up to an ignominious death …when he was nailed to the rood and was hoisted like the bronze serpent raised by Moses of old?
The Jews crucified their Messiah because he fell short of their expectations and was no match to their preconceptions. They too were expecting a Messiah in all his glory and honor, who would reign the whole world with his mighty hand.
Are our expectations of Jesus who is to come, any different from what the Jews were expecting of their Messiah? Are we really sure that the second coming of Christ would be of a glorious one for all to see as we normally understand? Would history be repeated again? Will the Bride of Christ – the Church execute him as a heretic just like Israel – the chosen people of God executed their Messiah?
Pontius Pilate handed him over to die an ignominious death on a cross. I’m afraid, we too might have already given him up to die of hunger, thirst, deprivation, shame, oppression. One such way of washing our hands off Jesus is failing to see him in the needy …failing to come to the rescue of the needy.