This year, today, on the feast of Saint Elijah the Prophet, we want to remember the link there is between the Prophet Elijah and John the Baptist. We reaffirm with great force this truth of faith for us believers in Jesus Christ, namely that John Baptist, the forerunner of the Lord, worked with the spirit and power of Elijah.
Of the many visitors to Muhraqa, every day there is at least one who asks the same question, namely why is the Prophet Elijah important for us Christians, what is Elijah’s connection with Christianity? The Lord himself answers this question, with his words, when in the Gospel of Matthew (17, 10-12) the disciples asked Jesus: «Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first? ».
And Jesus replied: ” To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.”. Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.
The scribes and rabbis of Israel took up the words of the Prophet Malachi: « Now I am sending to you Elijah the prophet, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and terrible day; He will turn the heart of fathers to their sons, and the heart of sons to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with utter destruction» (Malachi 3, 23-24).
John the Baptist embodies the spirit and strength that had distinguished the prophet Elijah when he was alive. In fact, both will carry on a preaching with strong, lively tones, a preaching made of conversion and penance, of essentiality and desert that stands against falsehood, duplicity, the corruption. Elijah/John the Baptist: figure of the precursor who prepares «the way» for Jesus.
Jesus, in the Gospel of Matthew (11,14) had reiterated this symbolic identification: «And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come».
One of the main characteristics of Elijah’s spirit is to bring his people back to God. So did Elijah (1 Kings 17:18), so did John the Baptist, leading the people back to God, preparing the way for the Lord. Then we reiterate that Elijah and John the Baptist had the same mission, only the means to fulfill theirs mission were different. Miracles were only a means.
Elijah baptized the sacrifice (and the altar) before calling fire from heaven: “The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench” (1 Kings 18:35), just as John the Baptist baptized those who were willing to sacrifice themselves (symbolically on the altar) before their baptism of fire from heaven. Always in this sense, Elijah is responsible for sealing and unsealing the heavens. Curiously, when the skies come opened, the earth and repentant Israel are baptized with water, they bring new life, renewing their ancient covenant with God. Spiritually speaking, John’s ministry also opens the windows of heaven simultaneously with the introduction of the new covenant, which also depends on “repentance and turning back” of Israel to God.
John the Baptist, with all the power of the Spirit of Elijah will have to preach conversion, preparing every heart to welcome his Saviour, his Lord, his God.
The Christian is a «witness» of Christ; he is the one who makes it alive in today’s world, the one who reads the signs of the times.
In this regard, we cite a reflection by Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) to indicate how it is the humble who make the history of salvation grow. Significantly, the Jewish Carmelite who died in Auschwitz compares prophecy to holiness, and she does so in relation to the most dramatic moments in history. She herself was one of those prophets and saints, in one of the darkest hours of humanity. In the darkest night the greatest prophets and saints arise…
How often we too, in our life, in our day, are called to read «prophetically» the signs of the times… And often we do not even recognize those who are «precursors» of the Lord!
Pietro Braccu, ocds