This Saturday morning, our readings highlight the Prophets Elijah and John the Baptist, two of the greatest prophets from the times before Jesus. In the first reading from Sirach, we hear
“In those days, like a fire there appeared the prophet Elijah whose words were as a flaming furnace. Their staff of bread he shattered, in his zeal he reduced them to straits; By the Lord’s word he shut up the heavens and three times brought down fire. How awesome are you, Elijah, in your wondrous deeds! Whose glory is equal to yours? You were taken aloft in a whirlwind of fire, in a chariot with fiery horses. You were destined, it is written, in time to come to put an end to wrath before the day of the LORD.”
Elijah is compared to fire and flame, praised he could lock up the heavens, remembered for when he went head-to-head with King Ahab and Queen Jezebel for their corruption of Judah, noted for being taken to heaven in a fiery chariot, with the promise to return as herald of the Messiah.
There is a Passover tradition among the Jewish people to leave a seat empty at the table for Elijah who will herald the fulfillment of hope and history for the Jewish people with the imminent coming of the Messiah.
This is the prophet to whom John the Baptist is compared.
Perhaps we should have our own Advent tradition of leaving a seat empty at the dinner table to remind it is a seat for the fiery prophet who heralds the coming fulfillment of hope and history. A reminder that Advent is not Christmas-lite, but rather a season of clearing away the dross from our life, repenting, and making straight the path for the Spirit of Christ to enter our lives and fulfill our hopes.
inspiration from the podcast of Fr. Bill McConnville