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Saturday, December 11, 2021

Book of Hours
France, Paris, ca. 1500
MS H.5 fol. 103r

Sirach 48:1-11
Psalm 80:1-3, 14-18
Matthew 17:9-13

God chose a solitary soul from the wilderness east of the Jordan to stand before Ahab and call Israel to repentance. Sirach enumerates in this reading all the ways in which Elijah spoke the word of the Lord in his warnings to Ahab regarding the famine, the great contest on Mount Carmel between the prophets of Baal and Elijah, the raising of the Sidonian widow’s son, his condemnation of kings, and his being taken up, at the end of his earthly life by a whirlwind of fire.

Sirach was so taken with the effect of the Prophet Elijah’s works of wonder.  In this reading, we too can see that these works (not at all pleasant or comforting) were motivated by a deep love and commitment to God and God’s love and faithfulness to His people. Verse 11 proclaims:

Happy are those who saw you

and were adorned with your love!

For we also shall surely live.”

In this last verse, Sirach asserts that all Elijah did and stood for was for love – love of God and of God’s people. Who are those that are adorned with Elijah’s love? Is it not those, even today, who remain faithful to God? Who put their whole trust in God?

It is fitting that this reading of Sirach’s praise of Elijah should come in the season of Advent, for it was a popular idea that Elijah would return prior to the Messiah. Jesus, after the Transfiguration, confirmed that this was so – in the person of John the Baptist.

Sr. Susanne Prue, SSJD