The feats of the prophet Elijah are well-documented and well-known. He called down the fire of God and to mock the Baal priests and their sacrifice. Elijah was taken up to the heavens by chariots of fire. The reins were passed to Elisha, a rather fiery transition of power.
In the Gospel of Luke, chapter 1, the angel Gabriel tells Zechariah about who his son will be. “John will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”
John is foreseen to come with the spirit and the power of Elijah. But he is not Elijah. He is the last of the prophets, tasked to “prepare the way of the Lord and make straight his paths.” Indeed, he will point to the Messiah.
The people in Jesus’ time were perplexed with the figures of John the Baptist and Jesus. How often we are too! What is Jesus waiting for?
We approach Gaudete Sunday and the lighting of the rose candle. The Church transitions from hopeful anticipation of the second coming to the joy of Christ’s first coming. Together, we wait to welcome the new Christ child once again in our lives.
Fr. Phillip Donlan, CP, is the Associate Director of Ministry at Christ the King Passionist Retreat Center, Citrus Heights, California.