Sir 48:1-4. 9-11
Powerful moments change us.
When global and catastrophic events occur, such as the invasion of Iraq, the Indian Ocean tsunami or the Port Arthur Massacre, we can often recall precisely where we were and what we were doing. When we hear of incredible, heart-wrenching incidents such as the heroic efforts of all involved in the Tham Luang cave rescue, waves of emotion bind us intrinsically to our neighbour. Those who have been present for the birth of a child, the death of a loved one, or who have experienced mystical conversion know that life will never be the same again.
The disciples, descending the mountain after Jesus’ transfiguration, have just experienced one such moment of brilliant transformation. Yet, Jesus has subsequently warned them not to tell anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead. What must have been going through their minds?
“‘Why do the scribes say that Elijah has to come first?’” they ask. Out of context, their question to Jesus is random, yet post-transfiguration, it is profound. Peter, James and John recognised Moses and Elijah on the mountaintop and are now wrestling with an apparent contradiction of faith. If Jesus is the Christ, as Peter has previously declared, and this mystical experience has indeed been confirmed, why has Elijah, the prophet whose return would signal the coming of the Messiah, not yet come?
Jesus’ answer is crucial: Elijah “is to come,” yet he “has come already,” and indeed, moments earlier, atop the mountain and talking with Jesus, he was ‘here.’
How small we make our God when we assume that we are not intrinsically connected to every other lifeform, at this moment and every moment, throughout all of time! Elijah arises again in the person of John the Baptist, “his word flaring like a torch” (Sir. 48:1), heralding the coming of Christ, who was, who is and who will be.
May the power of Christ awaken us to God’s timeless presence this Advent.
Angela Marquis works as a chaplain in a Tasmanian local primary school and with the Passionists at St Joseph’s Hobart Parish. She completed a Master of Theology in 2021 and is currently studying Biblical Hebrew with the Israel Institute. She enjoys rock climbing and long leisurely beach walks with her husband and four-legged daughter.