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Home » Daily Readings, Old Testament

Elijah and the Day of the Lord

Submitted by on Saturday, 13 December 2008No Comment
  • Reading ISirach 48:1-4.9-11
  • Resp. Psalm:  Psalm 80:2,18-19
  • Gospel Reading: Matthew 17:9.10-13



The present selection from Sirach is found in the tribute to the Fathers.  The text is fundamental especially to the understanding of the figure of John the Baptist who is presented in the New Testament as the Elijah of the last days.  The reading from Matthew (17:9-13) actually confirms the idea.

One of the figures of the last days is Elijah; he is a sign that the Day of the Lord has come.  Sirach’s praise of Elijah actually lies behind some of the texts about John the Baptist. 

You were destined, it is written, in time to come
to put an end to wrath before the day of the LORD

John’s name is Yo-hanan in Aramaic, and means "The Lord has shown mercy."  It is a name that the angel Gabriel told Zechariah to give to his child.  The name actually designates the son of Zechariah as the one who would "put an end to wrath before the day of the Lord."  This and his baptism of forgiveness actually sets the tone of the Day of the Lord as one of reconciliation.

To turn back the hearts of fathers toward their sons,
and to re-establish the tribes of Jacob.

The line probably comes from Malachi 3:23-241 and  is quoted in Gabriel’s description of what the son of Zechariah will be:

He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of fathers toward children and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to prepare a people fit for the Lord."  (Luke 1:17)

The expression "turn the hearts of the Fathers to their children" in Luke is followed up by "and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous" which takes the place of Malachi’s "and the hearts of children to their fathers".  The idea in the line of Malachi — the reconciliation of the gap between the old and the new — is retained in the Lucan rendering.  In Sirach, the line "to re-establish the tribes of Jacob" is echoed in Luke’s "to prepare a people fit for the Lord".  It was after all the Baptist’s mission to prepare Israel for the one who would re-establish Jacob, as the oracles of Ezekiel and Jeremiah point out.

Throughout the history of Israel, we find that generations of Israelites after the entrace into the Promised Land turning farther and farther away from God.  The reason is that there was a breach in obedience to the Lord’s command in Deuteronomy:

Take to heart these words which I enjoin on you today.  Drill them into your children. Speak of them at home and abroad, whether you are busy or at rest. (Deuteronomy 6:6-7)

A previous generation (the fathers) failed to hand on to their sons (the new generation) the memory of the Lord’s wonders.  This breach in obedience ultimately led to the division of the kingdom and the destruction of the two Israels.  Thus the re-establishment of Jacob will imply that the traditioning of God’s Word from father to son continue.  In Malachi’s prophecy, the wrath of the Lord’s Day will be lifted on condition that the reconciliation of fathers and sons occurs (see the "lest" in Mal. 3:24)

Sirach 48:1-4
View in: NAB NIV KJV Vulg LXX
1And Elias the prophet stood up, as a fire, and his word burnt like a torch.
2He brought a famine upon them, and they that provoked him in their envy, were reduced to a small number, for they could not endure the commandments of the Lord.
3By the word of the Lord he shut up the heaven, and he brought down fire from heaven thrice.
4Thus was Elias magnified in his wondrous works. And who can glory like to thee?
Psalm 80:2,18-19
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg LXX Hebrew
2Give ear, O thou that rulest Israel: thou that leadest Joseph like a sheep. Thou that sittest upon the cherubims, shine forth
18Let thy hand be upon the man of thy right hand: and upon the son of man whom thou hast confirmed for thyself.
19And we depart not from thee, thou shalt quicken us: and we will call upon thy name.
Matthew 17:9
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
9And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying: Tell the vision to no man, till the Son of man be risen from the dead.
Deuteronomy 6:6-7
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg LXX Hebrew
6And these words which I command thee this day, shall be in thy heart:
7And thou shalt tell them to thy children, and thou shalt meditate upon them sitting in thy house, and walking on thy journey, sleeping and rising.

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