A reading from the gospel according to Matthew 17:9A, 10-13
9A As they were coming down from the mountain,
10 the disciples asked Jesus, “Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?”
11 He said in reply, “Elijah will indeed come and restore all things;
12 but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him but did to him whatever they pleased. So also will the Son of Man suffer at their hands.”
13 Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.
The gospel reading above follows immediately the transfiguration story where Moses and Elijah appeared together with Jesus. That is why the disciples were perplexed because of what they heard before that Elijah would come first before the Son of Man. Jesus then explained that Elijah indeed came first in the person of John the Baptist as we can verify in Luke 1:17. He further explained that Elijah will come again during the end of time to “restore all things”.
The prophet Elijah did come through John the Baptist but the scribes and other religious authorities did not recognize him because they were blinded by their own pride and self-righteousness. Moreover, these same religious people would later become the agent of persecution against Jesus Himself. It is indeed ironic that some people who profess faith in God are the very same people who would inflict harm to those who truly serve the Lord. No wonder that Jesus reserved the strongest warning to these hypocrites thus, “Woe to you teachers of the law and Pharisees…” (Matthew 23:15-16).
As the gospel above tells us of the role of Elijah in the coming of the Savior of mankind, we are reminded of our need to prepare for the annual celebration of Jesus’ birthday. Our preparation should not only for ourselves. More importantly, we have a role to play so that others may also prepare the way of the Lord. By our continued renewal and witnessing, the people around us may feel that indeed Jesus is coming again.